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Zambelli group, a new look for tomorrow's workshop

Business strategies


The Padua based company, very active in the tire sector, went through a complete make-over: through dedicated and high quality service its three service centres move to revamp the business. “Not just tires but an all-round assistance dedicated to lease companies and local small enterprises” says the owner Andrea Zambelli. 

Dino Collazzo

The Zambelli group gets a new look. As its first one hundred years of activity draws near, one of the oldest tire retreader in the business focuses on innovation and comfort to retain a competitive edge. Clean and well maintained premises, hi-tech equipment, expertise and a wide choice of accessories are the distinguishing features of this transformation. The idea of renovating one of the three service centres, with its shops and workshops, came to the company’s owner Andrea Zambelli in his quest to improve the services offered. All three centres, each with its own characteristics, represent a single large service offer. In fact, each structure can boast a number of different workshops, each with a specific task but always linked to vehicle maintenance. Besides tire sales – the company’s core business – we additionally find an auto electrician, an M.O.T. inspection centre, a car wash and a body shop. The latter is a clear indication of how independent car centres are evolving. No longer just single specialists focusing on one single aspect of car maintenance and repair, but a complete service centre able to provide a 360 degree assistance on everything that pertains to the auto care business. As far as the Zambelli group is concerned, we are talking about three separate structures for a total of 12,000 square metres – both indoor and outdoor -. Each one is located in a different area around Padova and caters for different vehicles, from luxury vehicles to smaller class A cars, while, as far as transport vehicles are concerned the offer ranges from light to heavy duty commercial vehicles. “What we have achieved is the result of a wide range of activities and investments – explains Andrea Zambelli -. Within the “Island” – as Zambelli likes to call his three centres, editor’s note – I have set up a diversified service offer to best meet the needs of my clients who are able to find everything they need in a single place. At the same time I have revived my activity expanding the business”. 


A passion for the automotive world

Zambelli, which currently employs 90 workers with an annual turnover of over 10 million euro, started its activity back in 1919 with Cesare Zambelli, Andrea’s Grandfather. Initially, the company stood out also for the production of mouth-blown bird calls! But the passion for the automotive world quickly took over. So much so, in fact, that Cesare Zambelli eventually opened a tire retreading plant. This passion, though, runs in the family and his sons, once at the helm of the company continued investing in this activity increasing the number of clients. Besides on-going investments in the tire sector – some of the most important brands traded at Zambelli are: Pirelli, Formula, Michelin, Bridgestone, Firestone, Continental, Yokohama, Goodyear and Dunlop – Andrea Zambelli came up with the idea of diversifying the business, redirecting part of the company’s income towards other activities linked with maintenance and assistance. “In the meantime a Roadworthiness inspection centre was also opened along with a body shop, a car wash, an upholstery shop and a car music systems retail point – says Zambelli -. Our next move is opening an important ALD accredited body shop for the Triveneto region”. An activity destined to be managed, also in the future, by Cesare’s descendants, who are gearing up to lead the Group towards what will become a workshop 4.0. “In the tire business the average age of a company is 20 years – continues Zambelli – yet we have been around for a hundred now, albeit with a lot of sacrifices. In the course of time we had to reduce our presence going from 13 centres to just 3. But we did so in order to focus on quality and profitable activities, the ones that would have guaranteed our survival”.


Balancing recession and recovery

The recent crisis did certainly not spare the Zambelli Group as most other companies in the sector. But in spite of what happened to other enterprises that, in the face of dropping business volumes and margins have chosen a conservative path, the Padua based company changed strategy. Rather than just wait for the storm to pass, Zambelli focused on diversifying the business with new and innovative services. More than to private vehicle owners, the focus now was on leasing companies as well as local small yet healthy enterprises. "Even though our sales were slightly reduced, considering that leasing companies are the ones that set the prices, we still have a more than adequate income – says the group’s owner.  We chose to increase business volumes by offering complete services, addressing those customers who are willing to pay immediately for the job, rather than taking on bigger, more lucrative jobs but with long-term deferred payments. Nowadays, risks are higher, so great caution and a good entrepreneurial strategy are needed. Our goal is to offer high quality services to selected customers". A strategy of greater customer selection which affects the entire aftermarket chain, from individual dealers and workshops to component producers and distribution companies. The Iam market is undergoing a tremendous transformation, and the companies involved are coming up with plans and resources to realign themselves on the market trying to gain more favourable positions. Focusing on high-quality products at low prices, establishing partnerships and business networks between operators (production, distribution and user) and improving production processes by investing in technological innovation, are accelerating the selection process. The result will be the birth of larger and more structured groups able to work in unison in different sectors. "Innovation is the key to staying competitive - continues Zambelli -. As a group we have invested in modern, state-of-the-art equipment and we did it because the automotive world has changed and vehicles are becoming progressively more technological. Assistance must, therefore, be more specific, tailored to the different needs, and with my three stores, I've been trying to meet everybody's needs".


Not enough expertise

However, if clients are to be adequately assisted, smart equipment alone is not enough. The expertise of highly trained personnel capable of solving problems using these kinds of tools is equally important. These are body shop operators, tire fitters, mechanics and auto-electricians, all difficult to find as these trades have been slowly disappearing with time. And not because of lack of work, but because fewer people choose to specialize in these types of trades. According to data published by Miur (Ministry of Education), in Italy, students enrolling in technical institutes are consistently dropping. Over the past decade, students from schools that prepare and train surveyors, accountants and experts in the fields of mechanics, electronics, transportation, chemicals and textiles have dropped by 117,000 units. With the result that every year, many companies - including workshops - are struggling to find the 60,000 technical profiles needed to cover the demand. "No one is interested in doing our job any more - Zambelli concludes. We are struggling to find suitable young workers. And when I do find someone, it is because I nicked him from someone else in the industry. When a company closes, it is important to try to get hold of its best workers and offer them a contract. But, we always talk about people of a certain age not youths. The average age of my employees fluctuates between 45 and 50". 

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