The Automechanika exhibition has recently taken place in Frankfurt, and some of the new products and services on show will undoubtedly feature in PMM over the coming months. However, there were some aspects of the event that Neil Pattemore feels are worthy of immediate investigation. Over to Neil…
The sheer size of Automechanika Frankfurt this year not only meant there was there a lot to see, but it was also a showcase for a highly innovative and competitive industry sector, and a demonstration of the competition that exists in the market.
The first Automechanika show was in 1971 and it has grown from strength to strength in the 25 events since (it is a bi- annual event). At the last show in 2016 there were reportedly 133,000 trade visitors from 170 countries who came to see the latest developments on offer from 4,843 exhibitors from 76 countries. You will not see the whole exhibition in one day!
This year, the organisers recognised this and created an ‘Insider program’ that provided a package of free entry, free local public transport, and a dedicated ‘insider lounge’, as well as further offers and services after the show ended. The show organisers also split the exhibition into product groups, which were located in dedicated halls or areas, to make it easier to find what you were looking for.
Of course, there were many new products in general, but also an increasing number of ‘augmented reality’ products that started to show how the vehicle repair workshop of the future can tap into the ‘back room’ computing power of some of the leading information service providers, to give you a whole new method of quickly and accurately repairing a vehicle in the ‘workshop of tomorrow’. Your workshop develops into being a part of the ‘internet of things’ as dedicated diagnostics, repair processes and replacement parts all become interconnected and instantly available.
This year’s event was also a little different, in that it included a dedicated area that focused on the B2B business for retro and classic vehicles. At first glance, this may seem strange, but actually it reflects the growing issue of the skills and experience that is still needed to work on vehicles with older technologies.
The diagnostic and repair methods required are different to today’s vehicles, and given that the average age of vehicles in Europe is increasing (over 8% since 2000), there is a growing problem of an widening skills gap.
Another key challenge that the show touched upon is being able to continue to connect to a vehicle, both in the workshop and remotely. This is partially a technical issue, but is mainly a legislative requirement. What also became more obvious from walking around the show halls was the trend of the whole repair process changing from the traditional scenario where a vehicle is brought into the workshop once the owner realises that something isn’t right, to a situtation where the vehicle can be monitored remotely and the subsequent offer of service or repair work can also be offered remotely and directly to the driver via the in-vehicle display. In other words, the competition now starts in the vehicle while it is being driven.
All of this shows why Automechanika is arguably the most successful aftermarket show in the world. Not only is there an enormous range of exhibitors showing a huge range of products, services, developments and new processes for the workshop, but also a substantial opportunity to attend seminars, training sessions and view the developing trends in the aftermarket – both opportunities and threats.
At a time when the aftermarket is truly at a crossroads and only those workshops that understand what, when and where to invest will continue to be successful, it is a ‘no brainer’ to visit aftermarket events. Although not unique to the automotive industry, the development of accessing and using data in this digital era is being called the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and it is certain that it will change consumers’ expectations on the way that their vehicles will be serviced and maintained. Equally, it will impact on the requirements of those businesses providing the parts, diagnostics, repair and maintenance – the aftermarket value chain.
Why is this all so important to independent workshops? Quite simply, your competitors are evolving their businesses, not only at the main dealer level, but with vehicle manufacturers themselves entering the aftermarket via remote communication with the vehicle and the driver. Ultimately, the only way for independent workshops to be able to continue to offer consumer choice is to ensure that you remain competitive. The old saying that ‘knowledge is power’ has never been more true. The key question for many aftermarket businesses is how to improve their technical capabilities to address these developing opportunities, but this may come down to how to access and handle the vehicle data – not just for the existing day-to-day business models, but to support new services and business models based on remote access to the vehicle.
So understanding and planning for the future is probably the key motivation for making the effort to visit aftermarket exhibitions. It really felt as though Automechanika Frankfurt was where the aftermarket had ‘come together’, but although healthy and vibrant today, this does not guarantee that it will continue tomorrow with the threat from increasingly complex vehicles and competition being distorted by the actions of the vehicle manufacturers. This exhibition brought a new focus for the aftermarket, but is also a reflection of the increasing rate of change and the threats facing the independent sector.
To compete, you must evolve in the optimal way, and exhibitions can provide a real insight into what is ‘coming over the hill’ and the opportunity to talk to industry experts or attend technical training or informative events. If you can’t get to Frankfurt, then some of the UK local shows, like the MECHANEX events, provide an excellent, informative and educational day out – as well as a free bacon sandwich. You don’t get that at Automechanika Frankfurt!