AUTOPROMOTEC: SETTING THE TONE FOR THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY
The Italian automotive industry’s ability to innovate, a prime requirement for a consistent growth of the sector and the main leitmotif of the International showcase just held in Bologna, remains, now more than ever, a worldwide reference for the industry as a whole
Mino De Rigo
Let’s start with the figures: 104 thousand visitors, a fifth of which coming from abroad, met in a total area of 157 thousand square meters dotted with 1,587 exhibitors, up by 4.8% over 2013, 40% of which were foreigners, from 47 different countries. These are the figures of the 26th edition of Autopromotec, the five-day Bologna aftermarket showcase, a consolidated landmark of the International aftermarket industry, based on the strength of a record breaking attendance, especially in foreign exhibitors, up by 12.5% (663) and a significant increase in foreign trade visitors (20,646), a 9% increase compared to the 2013 edition. Inevitable meeting and debating crossroads for operators around the world, a litmus test for new trends and a true reflection of the guidelines for development in different segments of garage equipment and aftermarket sectors, the show displayed a double track approach, well established and cleverly interconnected, outlining on the one hand, a sector confiding in a consistent recovery capable of becoming a future tangible growth, and on the other, a rich and animated overview of both Italian and international productions. With Italian companies in the forefront, showing their competitiveness in many sectors of the aftermarket, from equipment to components.
A view to globalization
So here is the strength of a biennial event "able – according to Renzo Servadei, CEO of Autopromotec - to disclose real innovations in various fields, due to the fact that the fair is a direct expression of a sector in which Italian production districts lead the competition, thanks to the quality of the resources and the ability to innovate". This was noticed also by the Ministry for Economic Development as well as ICE, the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, which included Autopromotec among the great national exhibitions of international importance, financing the marketing campaign of the Bologna trade fair, planning a world road show and helping to involve foreign delegations who, along with 90 international buyers, enlivened the gatherings dedicated to business meetings, with the aid of a special business matching platform. Over twenty delegations from the US, Mexico, Japan and South Korea along with Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and South Africa, not to mention East European countries in close ranks, Brazil and Argentina. And if ICE works to provide companies with the necessary tools to face the challenges of foreign markets and consolidate their presence, it is also true that a large proportion of Italian automotive enterprises export a large share of their production, often well over 80%, and this made it possible for them to get through the recession without undue suffering.
The dynamic vitality of “Made in Italy” products
The prime example comes from the components sector, which has consistently maintained its position and market share due to the high contents of product innovation and to the quality of industrial processes, which in 2014 has increased its turnover reaching 40 billion euro, +3.6% over the previous year. And exports, aided by the depreciation of the euro against the dollar and the fall in oil prices, has already returned to pre-crisis levels, close to the 19.3 billion Euro threshold. Now, the technological evolution and the growth of the global automotive market are at the root of a fresh start that looks set to strengthen in the immediate future. This forward momentum is also expected to affect the garage equipment industry, which showed great vitality and dynamism at Autopromotec, concentrating the highest number of news and innovations on display (see the related article in this issue of Pneurama). A broad-spectrum of innovations which includes ( as clearly shown during the full program of conferences and seminars organized under the AutopromotecEDU banner, widely attended during the entire event ) professional training and upgrading. Starting with mechatronics.
Accepting that diagnostic tasks have now become the daily bread in workshops and multiservice centers (and the wheel-brake-suspension system is certainly no exception to the rule), this is where the required skills, particularly for new recruits, cannot overlook specific technical training, combined with the knowledge of English and the willingness to keep up to date with the market’s innovations, also through online training as well as learning to use the Web to broaden the range of services, as it is gradually becoming the preferred channel of communication between service centers and customers. This is the inescapable prospect of connected vehicles, where On-board Diagnostics will give way to a great online flow of data, through which car dealerships will be able to communicate directly with customers providing immediate response on the basis of information obtained directly from the vehicle, thereby relegating independent garages to a more marginal role. Unless, as considered within the International Automotive Aftermarket Meeting, targeted legislation would impose a much wider sharing of such data. On the other hand, connected vehicles will open doors to a market of value-added services of enormous dimensions.
Cutting edge MOT testing stations
Conversely, those who can do without a technical know-how, focusing on the ability to develop and maintain profitable relationships, are the front desk staff: there is no point in being a technical guru if you are not able to properly communicate with the client, transmitting the value of the services offered, perhaps with the ability to turn a setback into an element of satisfaction, important for promoting customer loyalty, particularly important as garages nowadays will especially benefit from the progressive aging of vehicles currently in circulation. And, next to the car repair business, they could further benefit from the introduction of new inspection systems, especially true for suppliers of equipment made mandatory by the new MctcNet2 system. With digital photographs taken during various stages of the inspections and encrypted algorithms to prevent tampering with data to be sent, in real time, to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT) central computer, it is designed to put an end to inspection scams. In fact, the system puts Italy at the forefront in Europe with the necessary IT infrastructure needed for the planned standardization of MOT tests at Community level, as defined by the Directive 2014/45 / EU. Solutions that testify the ability to innovate of companies associated with AICA (the Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers Association), as shown by the multi-brand inspection station staged at the fair under the banner of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, and displayed to illustrate the entire operation range of the standard MctcNet2 system. Further evidence of the willingness to excel, as the main theme of a positively proactive event.