INNOVATION AND PRAGMATISM
AICA GENERAL MEETING
The best way to analyze the market and the dangers of recession is to be realistic. Excessive bureaucracy and a proliferation of regulations certainly do not help Italian companies to stay competitive. Lucidity and pragmatism are required if useful and practical solutions are to be found.
Italian automotive equipment manufacturers met in Bologna for AICA’s 36th General Meeting on 3 December. The meeting was particularly welcome because at an extremely critical time it is very constructive, and in some ways comforting, for members to meet because they all have the same worries and problems, and together perhaps they can find new solutions. The event also included the re-election of the Board.
The chairman’s speech
AICA chairman Giorgio Cometti opened the meeting with some thoughts about the economic situation.
“We are going through a time of considerable apprehension with regard to the possible consequences of the financial crisis that will also considerably influence the destiny of the euro. As entrepreneurs, we have a duty to be, if not optimistic, then at least realistic. Without being competitive and getting the economy going as a result, it will not even be possible for the State to have a healthy balance sheet again. What is more, running a company in Italy is very difficult; old tools, oppressive bureaucracy, a slow legal system and excessive regulations are just some of the things that are fossilizing the system. We have labour market laws that were designed last century for the needs of last century”.
There are numerous and frequently unclear laws; RAEE (electrical and electronic equipment waste) or certain technical standards for products are examples. A regulation that is particularly important for the sector is Made in Italy. All companies are free to manufacture where they want, provided that standards are respected. However, products that are not “Made in Italy” cannot claim to be so. “AICA has already investigated this subject during this general meeting. There are no simple formulas and, unfortunately, there is not an effective monitoring system. The Association will work also on this subject”.
“Numerous laws stem from Community directives and the Association is very active on this front. But regulation is a vast subject. Battles that until yesterday were avant-garde, like car repair rights, have been overtaken by the concept of consumer freedom to choose where to have a car repaired. AICA takes an active part in the international and national round tables that develop regulations in the automotive sector”.
Another key element of the Association’s activities is certainly the promotion of the sector and the international exhibition, Autopromotec. “We must act quickly because the market is evolving with staggering speed: countries that until recently were described as “emerging” are now the main players; in just a few months what was leading-edge has become obsolete, institutions that were benchmarks, like ICE, no longer exist. So we must investigate different approaches that are not only new but also innovative for a completely different world. AICA is prepared for this cultural leap because it is an association that flies the flag of pragmatism”.
Evolution is rapid even in the exhibition sector. Appointments that had been consolidated for over half a century are now considerably reduced. Luckily, Autopromotec goes against the trend, but it is not easy. We have to combine demands that are sometimes conflicting: prices must be contained, but investment is needed so that visitors will come; we must be more international, but avoid too many low-cost attendances; we must be flexible in meeting the demands of exhibitors, but strict with regard to observing the rules.
“With Autopromotec our aim was to become a benchmark for equipment and we have achieved it. Now our aim is to maintain this position, which requires even more commitment, as we all know. I believe that we must continue to work on an international level”.
With regard to logistics, in recent years some of the critical structural aspects of Bologna have been eased considerably: many hotels have been built with affordable accommodation, the airport has increased its network of scheduled and low-cost flights, so much so that the city can be reached from all European hubs for just a few euros, and work recently began on further expansion.
Cometti closed by emphasizing that in a world where evolution forces companies to keep in step with a changing market, AICA members will continue to be the main players.
“Just as the Stone Age did not end because of a lack of stone, but because someone discovered a better way to hunt, the age of Italian equipment will not end because of a lack of cars to repair, but because we are unable to keep in step with a changing market. I do not doubt that we can do it.”
A positive balance sheet
In his capacity as treasurer, Onelio Picchioni presented the final balance for 2010, the subtotal for 2011 and the estimate for 2012. The accounts are balanced thanks to dividends derived from a successful Autopromotec. The Association has a positive credit balance and can invest in promoting the sector and new initiatives.
CE marking for machinery and Made in Italy
Matteo Cecconi, engineer and technical consultant for Studio Alfa and AICA, talked about CE marking, analyzing it not only from a technical point of view, but also as an essential part of safety and market transparency. The marking of machinery is in fact the last step on a long road that, the Association excepted, not everyone follows without fault. What is to be done? Cecconi described some cases, starting with the observance of essential safety requirements. Moreover, AICA has organized specific seminars on the latest version of machinery Directive 2006/42/CE in effect since the end of 2009.
“The observance of these provisions is not the responsibility of the manufacturer alone: it is important to let customers know that users must also respect the consolidation act on safety, Leg. Dec. 81/08, by which employers must ensure that the machinery used by employees is safe and conforms. Employers can be fined if they buy products from “ad hoc” companies that may have applied the CE marking carelessly and inappropriately.
The CE marking described in the directive is certainly not simple: the marking must be of a certain size, proportion and precise shape. It must be applied legibly, visibly and indelibly and must not be misleading and thereby cause errors. The marking must be positioned near the name of the manufacturer, which must have the same characteristics as there must be no doubt who the manufacturer is. Directive 2006/42/CE also specifies the information to be included, such as company name, address, machinery name, series, type, CE marking, etc.”.
Leg. Dec. 17/2010, which adopts the Directive and came into effect on 6 March 2010, governs the fines and lists the surveillance authorities. If the marking does not conform or is missing or erroneous, fines will be applied. If non-conformity is established, the Ministry for Economic Development will request the manufacturer to comply with the regulations. If he does not comply, the Ministry may order the withdrawal of the machinery, ban it from being placed on the market, prohibit its use, etc.. The European Commission must also be informed about this action. For marking that does not comply the fines range from 1,000 to 6,000 euros, whereas for infractions listed in Annex 1 (essential safety requirements) the fines are from 4,000 to 24,000 euros; all fines are re-assessed (and, therefore, could increase considerably) on the basis of the sales of the machinery for which a breach has been ascertained.
Like the previous Leg. Dec. 626/94, the consolidation act on safety (Leg. Dec. 81/08) bans the sale of machinery that is not in conformity with applicable laws. Moreover, Leg. Dec. 81/08 obliges employers to check that the equipment complies with the applicable CE directive before it is used by employees. The surveillance authorities can proceed with a recommendation or order (the former also includes a fine). In any case, the user is the first person who must answer for any irregularities. The manufacturer comes after the employer, but it is obvious that a user who goes to an unreliable supplier of machinery is the first one to have problems. Ignorance is not excused. For certain special machinery, the company must decide whether or not to restrict its use to specialist employees. The country of origin must also be shown in CE marking and in the declaration of conformity as there must be no doubt about the provenance of the machinery.
The Association can play an important role in raising user awareness of these subjects and reminding them that instruction and training manuals are very important. As to the latter, it’s not enough to do it, you have to demonstrate that you have done it”.
Promotional actions abroad
Autopromotec brand manager Emanuele Vicentini talked about the main data for the last exhibition. The figures are all positive: exhibitors, national and international visitors and exhibition area. The trend was the same for attendance by the international press. This year new projects were launched such as “AutopromotecEDU”, “Autopromotec Industrial Vehicles Service” and the “Automorphosi” photography exhibition.
Promotional actions aim at forming and strengthening delegations of buyers from abroad and from certain key countries in particular, even though the work of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) has been blocked and previous framework agreements cannot be renewed. Contacts have been made with other entities, such as Assocamerestero and Unido, for organizing missions from abroad. We are setting up an agreement with the Emilia Romagna Region and BolognaFiere for a variety of promotional actions in three strategic countries: Brazil, Turkey and China. Additionally, more investment is being made in national and international communication. The Autopromotec 2013 website with additional contents will soon be online.
“In a recent report by UFI (the global association of the exhibition industry), general opinions about the trend in exhibitions and efforts to bring them into the twenty-first century prioritize internationalization and virtualization. With specific reference to trends in the automotive aftermarket sector, at the third annual convention of the Confederation de Liason Européen de Piéces Aftermarket (CLEPA), traditional subjects like competition between official and independent networks were not discussed, but rather those dealing with the ‘Digital lifestyle’: connected living, the future sources of digital dialogue between the telephone and the car, how the car itself will be inundated with information thanks to geolocalization, and, of course, social-network-related business; ‘Megatrends of future mobility’: the combined use of different modes of transport like train-underground-bus-bike and car, especially in large and mid-size cities; increased car sharing and complex car rental: using the car as a function of purpose. A move away from the concept of the car as property towards spreading the concept of the car as transport”.
B2B will penetrate C2C because the social networks have more influence on buying choices, even among B2B contacts. Moreover, the repair shops of the future will move towards experimentation to meet the very different needs of consumers. The offer will have to be segmented to respond to these trends.
“There will be ‘shop in mall’ repair shops for women and ‘premium’ repair shops, where expensive brandies, a golf lesson or massage will be offered while the maintenance work is being done. A leaning towards very different costs, even for repair shops and connected networks. Communication will put pressure on awareness about the importance of car maintenance. It is in this scenario that the future of Autopromotec lies. In today’s very complex environment where the exhibition must satisfy exhibiting companies and, primarily, customers, it is strategically important to understand which way Autopromotec should steer in order to achieve its aims, respond to the market and, above all, direct it. Because now more than ever before all companies feel a need to meet on neutral ground. It must be increasingly positioned as an international crossroads, an automotive academy, stand out as a place for picking up on all the sector’s trends and macro data, and a link for continual contacts with companies. The definition of the concept of the Autopromotec of the future will also define its role on the market and in the supply chain: the water we swim in. I believe that it makes sense for us all to ask ourselves ‘what the water is’. It means identifying the role of your company and of Autopromotec, but above all it means making the effort to understand the market, the world, its trends, and being able to influence it. Why the reference to water? Because water is always water, but not all water is the same”.
New national and international regulations
Massimo Brunamonti, engineer, talked about the developments in national and international regulations and the important role played by AICA at the Ministry for Transport and the European Garage Equipment Association (EGEA). The main subjects included the state of the art of MCTCNet2, the new inspection software that will make fraud much more difficult. “Currently, experiments are being carried out to verify the system technically by using both existing and new equipment. The experiments were requested by the trade organizations in order to be certain that the system had been tried in operation before it becomes obligatory. The tests in Rome and Bologna are giving very good results and neither the equipment nor the software have encountered any problems. If everything goes according to plan, the system could be in use by end 2012. This will also be thanks to the huge dedication and commitment in people and equipment by member manufacturers. Still on the subject of inspections, at EGEA we also intervened on the training process in Directive 2010/48 which describes the subject”.
A second subject on which we have worked, and will to continue to work on, is the campaign on car repair rights, which has been renewed in confirmation of the right to have technical information, training, access to affordable prices, databanks, etc.. The regulation framework requests additional monitoring and any cases that could be brought before the relevant authorities. To give just one example, sometimes the cost of accessing technical information is exorbitant, even up to ten times higher than that for equivalent information in the United States market. Another subject under discussion is the certification of systems for repairing anti-theft devices. As this is a delicate security matter the procedure is complex, but we are working on solving the problems so that independent operators can also work on this important business sector.
“Also important is a new European regulation on the ‘eCall’, a device that will automatically call for medical assistance in the case of a crash. The eCall will also be used for bCalls to request mechanical assistance. The system could also be developed to call for simple maintenance. These are fields that the Association must dominate. Who will provide these services given that they involve a complex and costly system? However, these services are also part of BER and independents must also be able to propose them”.
Still with reference to EGEA, work group activities have been very intense. AICA recently appointed a new chairman of the hoists group, Fausto Manganelli, who is working on hoists for electric and hybrid vehicles. The diagnosis group worked mainly on emissions from diesel engines (work is being done on the particulate test, and a solution appears to have been found) Euro 5 and Euro 6, access to OBD information for diagnostic tools, and the certification of the so-called “pass through” tools. The tyre equipment group is working mainly on pressure checking systems.
As far as tests on suspensions are concerned, they have agreed to propose an efficiency test by measuring Lehr’s damping factor without defining the technology, but by proposing a homologation system based on the repetitiveness of results. The exhaust extraction group has been working on a standard for repair shops and the group working on air-conditioning recharging stations held its first meeting to define a new standard in line with the needs of the aftermarket. Italian companies are the protagonists in all the work groups.
• Aica: board members for the 2012-2015 four-year period
Fulvio Boni - FASEP 2000
Alberto Caorle - CAORLE
Giorgio Cometti - ING. POLIN & C.
Giulio Corghi - CORGHI
Onelio Picchioni - RAVAGLIOLI
Antonio Verrillo - GOVONI
Rolando Vezzani - SIMPESFAIP