Innovation calls, the garage sector reacts
42nd AICA Conference
At a time when technology and political uncertainty are taking centre stage, the role of the associations become increasingly significant in shaping industrial development strategies. All the more so in view of the delicate challenges currently on the table at European level.
Technological innovation, industrial policies and the role of the associations in relation to the transformations currently taking place, were among the main topics addressed at the 42nd Conference of the Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, which was held on December 11 at the Association’s headquarters in Anzola dell'Emilia (Bologna).
The strengths of the supply chain
As AICA members met for their annual appointment, a common thread ran throughout the proceedings, which included the association’s decisive role in National and European industrial policies, as well as the necessary perspective and measures to be adopted by the sector as a whole to successfully deal with the current challenges, which are different and foreshadow important repercussions on the entire industry. As the President of the association, Mauro Severi pointed out, if on the one hand it is necessary to take note of the complexity of the technological changes taking place in the automotive sector, on the other it is also difficult at present to predict exactly which development models and strategies will be adopted in the future. For example, said Severi, China is making huge progress in the field of electric vehicles, and if Asian manufacturers will succeed in imposing a new model of electric mobility, exporting it to Europe, the impact for the whole garage equipment market will be huge.
The Association’s President further stressed that the technological developments currently taking place are having consequences also at structural level, in the garage equipment sector as well as for spare parts and components, favouring an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions. "We are a country of small and medium-sized enterprises that are very strong in their specific niches, but often hardly equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly global market," commented Severi. "Even as an association we need to ponder over these phenomena and work towards forming our own vision of the future, fully aware of the challenges that await us, but without fear. Our companies have always shown to have this vision, which is universally recognized and not only by the market, but also by foreign colleagues, given that many of the coordinators in our international association, EGEA, are members or representatives of Italian companies."
In order to provide consistent support, also in terms of future strategies, to member companies, the association recently announced that in 2018, the “Stato Generale dell’Automotive”, one of Autopromotec Conference’s most popular initiatives and successfully launched back in 2016, will be back, ready to promote important ideas and trends such as the Workshop 4.0 project recently unveiled during Autopromotec 2017. Furthermore, AICA's commitment towards ongoing training (an important element, as the President stressed, in order to deal with future technologies correctly) is evident in Autopromotec Edu's and Focus Officina initiatives in conjunction with Quattroruote (an automotive magazine).
As far as promoting our companies internationally, and engaging in important collaborations with the main foreign trade fairs in the sector, new interesting commercial prospects are opening up towards Iran, thanks to a fruitful relationship established with the Emilia-Romagna region: yet, a change of pace is required, as highlighted by Severi: "Our supply chain needs to tackle the foreign markets as a united front in order to fully represent the all-round strength of our “Made in Italy” manufacturing sector. Germany and Italy are now the last two major European manufacturing countries left, and this means that we need to promote our system effectively, if we want to be at the top of foreign customer’s choices. That's why, in our future initiatives, we’ll try to involve other players currently engaged within Autopromotec with the goal of playing our cards as a supply chain rather than individual companies."
Looking at the number of activities in place, said Severi, it’s important to keep working with the maximum unity of purpose: “Despite being a small association, we have been able to maintain a leading role in a difficult sector such as the automotive aftermarket. I believe that much of our success depends on the spirit with which we have engaged in membership activities where, in the face of obvious differences as competitors, we succeeded in putting the interests of the sector ahead of those of individual companies. And doing so in the future will help us in flying the Made in Italy flag high, which continues to be a proud symbol of success in our sector."
During the meeting, Emanuele Vicentini, Autopromotec Brand manager, illustrated the prospects for international development, both in terms of trade events and membership activities. As for the fair, the 2017 edition’s final figures underlined the consistent growth of the event, both in terms of exhibitors and visitors, as well as satisfaction of all the participants. Autopromotec is now a well consolidated brand. Collaborations with ICE and Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna led to 720 institutional meetings held with 120 delegates from 30 foreign countries. Furthermore, the organizers arranged a customer satisfaction survey which showed, among other things, that over 76% of Autopromotec's visitors were decision makers, i.e. professional profiles dealing with purchasing activities. In addition Vicentini recalled that the Ministry of Economic Development is granting greater funds to promote exports, as well as trade fairs; however, interacting with the Ministry of Economic Development requires – once again – the willingness to act as representatives of an entire supply chain, to reach maximum impact.
The European “game” more crucial than ever
A report by Massimo Brunamonti provided an update on the latest membership activities in the field of legislation, both at national and community level. First of all, in 2017 an important result was reached, the approval of the UNI 11691 safety standard, sponsored and promoted by AICA’s tire-changers working group; further developments include an extension of this standard at European level through the CEN and strategies towards the definition of a product standard. Among the numerous fronts of activity, one deserves special mention, a working table to reintroduce a minimum list of equipment for aftermarket operators.
On the European side, as far as the proposal of suspensions test standards, EGEA’s 6th working group is engaged in the definition of a proposal based on the "phaseshift" test. The presentation of the proposal, both to national and European competent authorities, is expected within the next few months, as is the final CEN document for a single European standard. The positive outcome of this process will make the suspension test mandatory during roadworthiness tests.
Nevertheless, as far as the new European vehicle type approval (type approval) the heat is on, and both AICA and EGEA are committed to supporting its introduction among new vehicle approval requirements, from the OBD interface, as a mandatory tool for vehicle diagnosis, in order to guarantee free access to the information necessary for the repair and maintenance of vehicles with diagnostic tools, to all independent specialists. On this topic, EGEA, AICA and the other associations are consistently engaged in putting the needed pressure on the competent authorities, in order to guarantee competitive and non-discriminatory access to vehicle on-board information and telematic functions, as well as protecting consumers from possible monopolies.
Looking at standard protocols for garage equipment, as a result of the activities performed by EGEA’s 10th working group on the characteristics of a standard protocol/network for interconnections between several garage tools and instruments, AsanetworkGmbh has already manifested its willingness to make their product compliant, open and free; further proposals, however, could be expected during 2018.
Autopromotec Conference is back: global trends, networking and aftermarket strategies
Strongly endorsed by AICA, and aimed at providing the sector’s companies the necessary tools to facilitate development strategies, the appointment with Autopromotec Conference - General Status of the automotive aftermarket, returns on June 13 and 14. The 2018 edition, organized by Autopromotec at the Unipol Arena in Casalecchio di Reno (BO), will discuss, with some of the top global experts, the theme: "Workshop 4.0: digitization and new mobility trends, the future of car repairers". As in 2016, during the first edition, industry professionals will have a unique opportunity to be updated on new ideas and information, learn about products and solutions in an environment where debate and networking, useful for outlining future strategies in the automotive sector, will be the most suitable: garage equipment and spare parts manufacturers, dealers, car makers and other players in the supply chain. In particular, the talks and round tables in program will focus on the 4 "disruptive forces" that are deeply affecting the entire garage and auto-repair world: digitization and connectivity, electrification, autonomous driving, shared-mobility. Two days of activities dedicated to Start-ups and research laboratories, where it will be possible to hold meetings and B2B matching moments. Further information and registration steps on autopromotec.com/conference.