Bosch plans to acquire Unipart’s Autoparts Garage Programmes

Bosch has announced its intention to acquire Unipart Group’s (UG) Automotive Aftermarket workshop programmes in the UK. These programmes include the Unipart Car Care Centres (UCCC), a network of independently run garages, the KiS online garage management software, which helps to organise all daily workshop activities, and the Unipartner Consumer App. It is planned for all existing customer contracts to be transferred to Bosch.

“This acquisition perfectly fits with our growth strategy for the United Kingdom and Ireland”, Steffen Hoffmann, President Bosch UK and Ireland, said. “It is a significant step that increases our network of partner garages creating new sales channels for our automotive parts, diagnostics, and workshop services with these customers.”

Established in 1995, Uniparts’ Car Care Centres are one of the most recognised workshop programmes in the UK and are committed to high standards of work, quality and customer care. Bosch will take over the marketing support and training services for the garages plus ensure access to Bosch’s full range of automotive parts, diagnostics and workshop services.

The KiS online platform, one of the leading garage management systems in the industry, has been enhanced consistently since it was launched in 1992.

The Unipartner Consumer App enables car owners to manage key aspects of vehicle ownership such as MOT, Road Tax, Insurance and Servicing due dates to ensure they stay legal and safe. It also directly connects the consumer with the UCCC’s and Bosch Car Service networks at the touch of a button for all their service and repair needs.

“Robert Bosch has been at the forefront in offering servicing, repair and diagnostics services to car drivers via its global network of premium independent workshops, Bosch Car Service, for almost 100 years”, said Robert Hilbert, Head for the Bosch Automotive Aftermarket division in the UK. “We are very excited to increase our UK footprint in the Independent Aftermarket with these new garage partners and are very much looking forward in welcoming our new colleagues from Unipart to Bosch”.

Following a detailed strategic review, the Unipart Group board recently decided to identify a partner that could take their Programmes business to the next level and Bosch was deemed the right strategic partner. Mike Ferris, Unipart International Managing Director said: “We’ve been working in close partnership with Bosch for many years on a number of joint initiatives and they share many of Unipart’s core values and principles. I am delighted that the Unipart Autoparts Garage Programmes will be transferring to a trusted business in Bosch who will further develop the programmes, whilst maintaining the needs of the garage and consumer at the forefront of their plans”

It has been agreed that the purchase price will not be disclosed.

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£94m lost following discontinuation of car tax discs

The abolition of tax discs has led to soaring numbers of unlicensed vehicles and an unpaid tax bill of £94 million, as reported in the DfT’s 2019 survey on Vehicle Excise Duty evasion.

Ministers had hoped to be able to save £10 million a year by clamping down on tax evasion and cutting costs when it replaced paper discs with an online system in 2014.

However, the move has backfired as figures have revealed that a large number of motorists are either deliberately dodging tax or are forgetting to pay it, although a proportion of the estimated £94m revenue shortfall will have been recovered by DVLA enforcement activity and the payment of arrears by vehicle owners.

Around 1.6 percent of vehicles on Britain’s roads are currently evading Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), according to the Dept. for Transport. This represents an estimated 634,000 vehicles, almost treble the number in 2013/14, and equates to a loss of around £94 million in unpaid tax bills.

This is far more than the £35 million lost under the old system five years ago. While the number of vehicles avoiding tax is down from 1.9 percent since 2017, it still remains higher than the 0.6 percent rate before paper discs were abolished.

Previously, any remaining tax on a vehicle was transferred to the new owner when it was sold. Under the new system, any existing tax ends when a vehicle changes hands and the previous keeper is automatically refunded the remaining tax. The new owner must tax the vehicle immediately and is reminded by email to do so. But government figures suggest many motorists are failing to do this.

The vehicles most commonly dodging VED are motorcycles with an evasion rate of 3.8 percent. More than half of vehicles showing as not having tax have been unlicensed for more than a year, but of this proportion more than a quarter were motorcycles.

No comments have been made by the Dft due to the period of “purdah” prior to the General Election.

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TfL will not grant Uber another private hire licence – but 21 days to appeal

Transport for London (TfL) has decided not to grant Uber a new private hire operator’s licence, in response to its latest application.

Last year, Uber received a 15-month licence from the chief magistrate when it appealed TfL’s decision not to grant a new licence, which said it was not a “fit and proper” firm, citing concerns including passenger safety.

The on-demand taxi firm has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the chief magistrate granted it a licence in June 2018. This includes interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner. However, TfL has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.

Despite addressing some of these issues, TfL said it does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.

In September, Uber was granted a two-month licence as further information was required on these issues, some of which emerged late in the process of its reapplication.

A key issue identified was that a change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips – putting passenger safety and security at risk.

This means all the journeys were uninsured and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of whom had previously had their licence revoked by TfL.

Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, again compromising passenger safety and security.

Other serious breaches have also occurred, including several insurance-related issues. Some of these led TfL to prosecute Uber earlier this year for causing and permitting the use of vehicles without the correct hire or reward insurance in place.

This pattern of regulatory breaches led TfL to commission an independent assessment of Uber’s ability to prevent incidents of this nature happening again. TfL concluded that it currently does not have confidence that Uber has a robust system for protecting passenger safety, while managing changes to its app.

Legislation means that Uber now has 21 days to appeal, during which it can continue to operate pending any appeal and throughout any potential appeals process. Uber may seek to implement changes to demonstrate to a magistrate that it is fit and proper by the time of any appeal.

Throughout this period, TfL will continue to closely scrutinise the private hire operator, which includes the need for Uber to meet the 20 conditions set by the London authority in September 2019. Particular attention will be paid to ensuring that the management have robust controls in place to manage changes to the Uber app so that passenger safety is not put at risk.

Helen Chapman, director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging at TfL, said: “As the regulator of private hire services in London we are required to make a decision today on whether Uber is fit and proper to hold a licence. Safety is our absolute top priority. While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.

“It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won’t happen again in future. If they choose to appeal, Uber will have the opportunity to publicly demonstrate to a magistrate whether it has put in place sufficient measures to ensure potential safety risks to passengers are eliminated. If they do appeal, Uber can continue to operate and we will closely scrutinise the company to ensure the management has robust controls in place to ensure safety is not compromised during any changes to the app.”

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FFR Automotive joins IAAF

Permanent recruitment solutions company FFR Automotive has joined Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF).

FFR specialises in passenger car, commercial vehicle and refinish sectors, being a trusted recruitment partner to major aftermarket businesses including manufacturers, suppliers, motor factors and independent garages.

With more than 20 years combined experience, the FFR team prides itself on offering best in class recruitment solutions for any role within an aftermarket business, also offering free candidate training and a 12-month candidate guarantee.

Directors Gavin Collier and David Jobin, explained the reasons behind joining IAAF: “We are a specialist people business and we want to support all IAAF members with insight and expertise from our unique position, ultimately becoming a key voice on all things aftermarket recruitment related.”

“We also want to keep abreast of all of the latest developments within the industry and support initiatives that the IAAF works hard to promote, as they are key to the survival of the aftermarket as we know it.”

The pair also highlighted the ever-growing skills shortage in the industry, saying: “People are the heart of every great company – the skills shortage is a threat to many businesses. For example, the UK skills shortage has cost companies over £2 billion in increased salaries alone. More concerning still is that more than half of senior business leaders surveyed (53%) expect the situation to deteriorate over the next 12 months. This is a real issue for many aftermarket businesses or certainly will be in the future and we are in a position to help members alleviate these pressures.”

Mike Smallbone, IAAF head of membership development, said: “We welcome FFR Automotive into membership and look forward to their insight and knowledge on recruitment for businesses in the automotive aftermarket.”

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HELLA announces new UK Managing Director

HELLA has announced its new UK Managing Director (MD), Neil Grant, who will officially begin his latest role in January 2020.

Neil has been the financial director (FD) of HELLA UK, based in Chipping Warden, for four years and has a wealth of financial experience behind him.

Neil will be taking over from current MD, Matthew Say, who has been leading the UK operation for the past four and a half years.

Commenting on his appointment, Neil said: “Becoming the MD of a company such as HELLA UK is a huge honour and one that I am very much looking forward to. Having worked for the company for the past four years as the FD, I am well prepared for the role and fully aware of our customer base, product portfolio and of the strengths we have within our team. Working alongside Matthew Say in the strategic decisions and direction of the company over my tenure means that I have also already met many of our key partners.

“In an industry that is constantly changing, it is now my responsibility to ensure that we remain a relevant supplier to our customers, are adaptable to the developing landscape and are well positioned to meet their needs. We will therefore continue to invest in our core product offering, as well as those within the important ADAS and diagnostic fields and to grow our relationships with supply partners and customers.

“I have a great deal of customer knowledge, am aware of the potential growth areas and intend to continue the good work that Matthew has established. I am therefore, very much looking forward to leading HELLA UK through the next chapter in its journey.”

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Dayco appoints Laura Kowalchik as Chief Financial Officer

Dayco has announced that Laura Kowalchik has joined the company, as chief financial officer (CFO).

“Laura is a highly regarded operational finance leader with significant experience in automotive industries, data analytics and steel. Her breadth of experience in multiple ownership structures, and market conditions, as well as her hands-on-leadership style make her uniquely qualified to drive our financial strategy forward to deliver industry leading financial performance across our business worldwide,” said Joel Wiegert, Dayco’s chief executive officer.

“I am looking forward to working closely with Dayco’s investors and stakeholders,” Kowalchik said. “It is exciting to join the Dayco team during this time of transformation to drive strong discipline around financial results that focus on delivering stakeholder value.”

Laura has served as the CFO for Kenwal Steel Corporation and previously for Urban Science, but her career has also included senior level financial and controller positions with organizations such as Kaydon Corporation, Dura Automotive Systems, Microheat, and Metaldyne Corporation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Richmond and a master of business administration degree in finance from Indiana University.

Laura is also active in the community and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation.

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EAG names latest sales recruit

Excel Automotive Group (EAG) has appointed Tom Waites to the role of internal sales following his move from Universal Components.

Tom began his working life as a warehouse operative after leaving school, where he combined work with education, as he enrolled in a motor vehicle panel beating and paint spraying course at college.

After impressing in a part-time role over two years, Tom was offered a full-time contract at Universal, which he duly accepted. Tom continued his progression with notable style, as his maturity and skillset earned him the position of assistant supervisor just 12 months later.

Fast forward another year, Tom’s product knowledge and MAM Autopart software capability earned him the position of internal sales at Universal Components. It was his previous experience and three years in the current role that impressed EAG bosses, all of whom were keen to bring him on-board, and on the 4th November, they got their wish, as Tom began a new chapter.

Tom said: “There is a lot of work to do behind the scenes; however, early impressions suggest the people and products behind the brand can deliver.

“I am keen to develop into a stronger sales person, and with the change from commercial vehicle to passenger car, there is ample room for me to broaden my knowledge. I am delighted to be here, and I am looking forward to the new challenges and meeting a wide variety of customers.”

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Nutexa Frictions appoints new regional sales executive

Commercial brake manufacturer Nutexa Frictions Ltd has expanded its team with the appointment of Russell Baker as regional sales executive for the North West of England.

Russell will be focusing on looking after the light commercial side of the automotive/industrial braking sector and also introducing bicycle, motorcycle and performance car brakes into a already existing wide range of commercial vehicle brakes and clutch manufacturing/refurbishing at their factory in Hoylake.

Russell brings with him a significant knowledge from his 20yr background in mechanical engineering, working closely with the rest of the team at Hoylake to bring their customers the stopping power they require.

Janet Sergeant, Joint Managing Director at Nutexa Frictions Ltd, said “this is a great addition to growing our catalogue of commercial/light commercial brake range and expanding our growth as a business”.

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Workshops see rise in catalytic replacement business

Workshops are seeing more business due to growing theft of catalytic converters.

AA Insurance Services reports that that in January it had claims for just eight thefts but this had risen to 79 in October.

It said although catalytic converter thefts represent a very small proportion of all insurance claims made, the number of claims has steadily increased since January 2018.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as palladium, rhodium and platinum and can either be sent for scrap or sold privately via online auction sites.

As the converter is either unscrewed or sawn off the car, other damage can occur with bills up to £3,000.

Janet Connor, managing director for AA insurance services said the tenfold increase in claims for catalytic converters was “shocking”.

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GS Yuasa power homeless group’s charitable work with battery donation

GS Yuasa, the world’s leading battery manufacturer, have donated two of their industry-leading Yuasa YBX5625 Super Heavy Duty (SHD) batteries to the South Wales homeless group, Helping Open People’s Eyes (H.O.P.E). The batteries will be used to power a bus which provides shelter for homeless people in and around Newport.

Led by Ian Smith and his wife Tammy, H.O.P.E aim to help rough sleepers in the Newport area by offering them somewhere safe to stay. The team consists exclusively of volunteers and relied on donations from their local community to repurpose a former London bus. With 12 beds, showering facilities and a fully kitted-out kitchen, the bus offers temporary refuge as well as space to socialise.

Ian and Tammy, along with other representatives from the group, visited GS Yuasa’s factory in Ebbw Vale earlier this month. GS Yuasa Battery Sales UK Ltd Technical Services Manager for Automotive and Motorcycle products, Peter Whittaker, was on hand to offer advice and to help fit the two SHD commercial vehicle (CV) batteries.

The battery manufacturer also donated one of their Yuasa smart chargers to maintain the batteries industry-leading performance. This reduces the need for reconditioning via the bus’s alternator-driven charging system – allowing the bus to remain in the places it’s needed most.

Ian, founder of the group, said: “GS Yuasa have been established in the area for years and we approached them in the hope they might be able to help – to say we are overwhelmed by their support would be an understatement! Their donation will allow us to continue to provide somewhere safe to stay for those who need it most.”

The Yuasa YBX5625 SHD is specifically designed for use in heavy duty applications such as commercial vehicles. Its low self-discharge rate and maintenance free design make it the perfect solution for H.O.P.E. It’s part of the four-tiered Yuasa YBX SHD range which provides one of the most comprehensive and highest specification offers on the market.

Peter Whittaker added: “We’re delighted to be able to support H.O.P.E – it’s such a worthwhile cause and one we’re proud to get on board with. Yuasa batteries have long been the go-to choice in unique and super heavy duty applications making the them perfect choice to power H.O.P.E’s incredible work.”

Since establishing a production facility in Ebbw Vale, GS Yuasa have produced over 80 million batteries at the Welsh facility, employing close to 400 skilled workers.

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