Smart Mobility, a new dawn for the car-repair industry
Change is the prevailing word in the auto-repair industry, one that starts from the new mobility scenario that is already beginning to emerge. Autopromotec 2019, has always showcased the latest international trends, as well as hosting several other initiatives, and deemed it necessary to dedicate the IAM 19 (International After Market 19) conference to this specific subject. The new mobility scenario involves an epoch-making change in the relationship between ownership and use of the vehicle. Cars, which up until recently have always been considered as something to be possessed and used at will to the point of becoming a projection of their owners, have now become little more than a mobility “tool” for "millennials", on a par with the other possible alternatives to be used when having to go from A to B. The natural consequence of this is the flourishing of car sharing companies, short or long term rentals and other mobility packages.
What will the consequences be for the average workshop? Many and rather important: first of all, the gradual appearance of new types of "customers". We are talking about rentals or car-sharing fleets, with needs that are surprisingly similar to airlines: vehicles that never stop except for maintenance. Workshops, therefore will no longer centre their business around finding and fixing mechanical failures, but rather will follow a set maintenance and updating programme. What this means for the car-repair industry is quite easy to see, at least as far as new trends: first and foremost, the new customers, car-sharing and rental fleets, need coded, qualified and documented services; garages will sign contracts and provide their services by implementing procedures for which they will be held accountable and responsible. However, the driver, i.e. the person who may physically take the car to the garage even for the simplest of jobs, seasonal tire replacement for example, though no longer the one who pays for the service, will still interact with the mechanic on behalf of the company he represents.
Earlier we mentioned coded, qualified and documented services: this will immediately result in new garage procedures and equipment. Planning will take the form of a tailor-made service with personnel, car parts and equipment assigned ahead of time. All this will have to be carried out by accessing online portals or clouds where procedures and technical data information can be found in real time and at the moment of need. All operations will then be documented as the workshop’s information system generates the results of the various steps taken.
Connected equipment is one of the "leitmotifs" among garage equipment manufacturers. Nothing new, really, proposals and solutions have existed for some time now: MCTCNet2 in Italy and OTCLan in France, although limited only to mandatory vehicle inspections, were specifically designed to achieve the level of connectivity we are talking about. ASA network is another example, and not limited to MOT tests, through which equipment can connect to other IT devices in the area. But there is a need for more modern and updated tools; for this reason AICA, the Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association, has financed a feasibility study for a new communication protocol, soon to be available to the entire auto repair industry. In addition, AICA, through its working groups and within EGEA (European Garage Equipment Association), is working intensively on new garage equipment standards, such as new suspension tests, CEN safety standards for tire changers, truck brakes test benches, CEN and ISO safety standards for garage lifts and, last but not least, a collaborative initiative, together with Assogomma, with German colleagues such as ASA (Bundesverband der Hertsteller und Importeure von Automobil-Service Ausrüstungen) and WDK (Wirtschafstverband der deutschenKautschukindustrie) in a quest to simplify procedures and promote safety in run-flat and UHP tire mounting and dismounting operations. Autopromotec 2019 represents the perfect opportunity to see the changes currently sweeping through the industry as exhibitors will showcase their new, cutting-edge garage equipment, but also as the subject of various moments of debate and discussion during the fair, such as, for example, the previously mentioned IAM 19. Car repairers and the entire supply chain are aware that they are facing greater challenges compared to the past but, as usual, they will certainly be able to seize future opportunities and make good use of their visit at Autopromotec finding the solutions they have been looking for.
Afcar meets the EU Commission
Afcar, the Alliance for the Freedom of Car-Repair in Europe (Aica being an active participant in the alliance), in its on-going campaign aimed at raising awareness on issues such as free competition in the sector, received from the European Commission the opportunity to meet the heads of the five largest cabinets concerned. Besides recognizing the sector’s political importance, much to Afcar’s satisfaction, the five cabinets were brought together in a single meeting, which provided the perfect opportunity for a concrete and comprehensive debate.
The meeting took place on March 8th in Brussels in the iconic Berlaymont Palace, the headquarters of the European Commission's central offices; the Commission was represented by Ivo Schmidt of the Energy and Climate Commission, Silke Obst of the Transport Commission, Grzegorz Radziejewski of the Labour Commission, Maximilian Strotmann of the Digital Single Market Commission and Enric Mitjana of the Digital Economy Commission. Afcar was represented by Sylvia Gotzen from Figiefa, Chris Carroll from Fia, Massimo Brunamonti from Egea and Jan Bambas Afcar Policy Manager and Neil Pattemore as Technical Advisor. Needless to underline the importance, according to the Commission itself, of the issues on the table; the fact that works immediately focused on the still unresolved debate around access to technical data, says a lot about the political need for an effective legislative solution, especially as we are about to hand over the tasks to the future Commission, which will become operative following the election of the new European Parliament in the summer. Afcar wasted no time in reporting, once again, how the proposals made by car manufacturers, such as the Extended Vehicle, not only do not comply with requirements of free competition on which the single market is based, but even falls short as a functioning and efficient platform for the exchange of diagnostic data, to the point that even among car manufacturers, some are using alternative platforms. Afcar, following the request of the Transport Commission, has been testing the Extended Vehicle platform, and has had an easy time demonstrating its limits, pointing out that the tests previously planned cannot even be started unless the Extended Vehicle access is bypassed. The competence of the Commission’s representatives aroused great satisfaction throughout Afcar’s members and hearing that the Commission wishes to bring some of the most important initiatives to a conclusion, such as the so-called Sermi for safe and qualified access to the on-board diagnostic port, helped strengthening the current cooperative spirit at the base of the European legislative process. We would be happy to use the same words with each national government. In Italy, and not only there as far as we know, the Alliance is finding enormous difficulties in interacting with some government departments in charge of deciding on vital issues for the whole sector. It’s difficult to say why, a relationship that has been effective and constructive in the past, has now turned into a total closure. We hope this will soon change for the benefit of the whole community.