‘Grassroots insight’ plays influential role in crucial Type-Approval legislation vote

European Parliament’s IMCO committee have approved several key amendments to Vehicle Type-Approval legislation proposals, which include the aftermarket maintaining in-vehicle data access via the OBD port.

The approval follows ongoing campaigning from within the industry and also government quarters both at home and abroad, which has collectively championed the rights of the aftermarket in the fight to keep access open to the OBD port.

West Midlands MEP Daniel Dalton visited an independent garage in Birmingham in 2016, along with IAAF’s Chief Executive Wendy Williamson, GEA’s Dave Garrett, IGA’s Stuart James, FIGEIFA’s Sylvia Gotzen and Neil Pattemore. Here, Dalton gained insight first hand on how crucial it was that aftermarket access to in-vehicle data remains possible.

Wendy Williamson, IAAF Chief Executive

During his visit to the workshop, Dalton heard growing concerns from the automotive aftermarket, where it was made further clear that without such access, the future of the entire aftermarket would “be thrown into doubt”.

Since it was announced that the aftermarket could lose access to the OBD port, the IAAF, in partnership with FIGIEFA, has fought against the initial proposals, arguing that a level playing field should be provided to ensure consumer freedom of choice when repairing and maintaining vehicles. Over the last 18 months, the IAAF has held meetings with Dalton and the IMCO committee to put forward the aftermarket perspective as part of this process.

Progress has already been made during this period, with over 184 amendments being approved by the IMCO, as part of the forthcoming type approval legislation, which relate to the diagnostics, repair and maintenance of vehicles. The changes, an important step towards improving the legislative framework for independent operators, followed the publication of the ‘Dalton Report’.

Wendy Williamson, IAAF chief executive said: “We’re extremely grateful for the huge political support we have received on this issue from Daniel Dalton, in campaigning alongside us and other industry voices for the future of the independent aftermarket.

Not only has the Dalton Report been pivotal in our fight but his proactive role, evident in his visit to a garage and meeting with aftermarket stakeholders, has galvanised our collaborative efforts in achieving this absolutely magnificent result we’ve been pushing for – to ensure aftermarket access to the OBD port.”

The agreement will now be submitted for final approval by the European Parliament, where it is widely assumed the result will be endorsed in the Parliament’s final voting session in April.

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Exhibitor day aims to enhance visitor & exhibitor experience

Automechanika Birmingham is hosting an Exhibitor Day on 1 March at Birmingham NEC, with the primary aim being to ensure exhibiting companies get the most out of the event and contribute to delivering a truly memorable visitor experience.

In addition to offering fantastic networking opportunities with fellow automotive businesses, the event will provide exhibitors with wide ranging advice including presentations on pre-show marketing, attracting visitors to the stand and making best use of the networking facilities available.

There will also be a number of event suppliers in attendance offering discounts to exhibitors on furniture packages, stand designs, catering and scanners to capture visitor data.

In 2018, Automechanika Birmingham will once again bring the automotive industry together in a show of unity, with over 500 exhibitors attracting trade buyers and engineers. This year, the show will have a dedicated “garage quarter” for the growing number of independent garages attending the event and an enhanced programme of live events featuring live technical demonstrations, free training and keynote speakers. Also new for 2018, the event will introduce a meetings programme to help match buyer to exhibitor capabilities, maximising time and increasing business conversation on stands.

Simon Albert, Event Director, said “As the UK’s leading exhibition for the UK automotive industry, it is our responsibility to provide exhibitors with the best support possible, ensuring they are fully equipped to contribute to delivering a truly memorable visitor experience. The exhibitor day is designed to ensure ALL exhibitors benefit from exhibiting and we are truly excited to share ideas on how we can make this year’s Automechanika Birmingham the best yet for the industry.”

The leading exhibition for the UK’s automotive industry returns to the NEC, Birmingham, 5-7 June 2018.

Automechanika Birmingham is the largest automotive trade event in the UK and in 2017, brought together more than 800 quality exhibitors and 12,000 key decision makers; 9,300 from the automotive aftermarket and 2,700 from the vehicle production sector.

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Volvo to begin sales of electric trucks in 2019

Volvo has confirmed it will begin sales of electric trucks in Europe in 2019, with the first units being put into operation with selected reference customers later this year.

As well as reducing CO2 emissions, Volvo sees the introduction of electric vehicles as an opportunity to reduce the number of trucks operating in peak hours.

Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks, said, “By using electrically-powered and quieter trucks for distribution in urban areas, we meet several challenges simultaneously. Without noise and exhaust emissions, deliveries could take place outside peak periods, like for example in the late evening or at night. This would reduce the burden on the roads during daytime rush-hour traffic, allowing both the road network and vehicles to be utilised far more effectively than today.”

A research project conducted by Stockholm City and KTH Royal Institute of Technology studied the effects of goods distribution at night in central Stockholm, and found that avoiding peak-time traffic resulted in transport assignments being completed in one third of the time. A 26-tonne distribution truck has more than ten times the capacity of a 3.5 tonne van, therefore a single truck operating at a time when there are fewer other vehicles on the road also has the potential to reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Jonas Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy for medium duty vehicles at Volvo Trucks, said, “Our technology and know-how within electromobility are based on proven commercial solutions already in use on Volvo’s electric buses and solutions that were introduced in Volvo’s hybrid trucks as far back as 2010. However, the vehicles themselves are only one part of what is needed for large-scale electrification to succeed. Enabling long-term sustainable transport is a complex issue that requires a holistic and wide range of measures. We are working closely with customers, cities, suppliers of charging infrastructure and other key stakeholders to create the necessary framework for electrical trucks.”

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Autofirst Network partners with WhoCanFixMyCar.com

Autofirst Network has agreed a deal with WhoCanFixMyCar.com to support its nationwide network of independent garages. The arrangement offers every Autofirst Network member the opportunity to have its own profile on the platform for 12 months, enabling them to receive notifications every time a local motorist requires a quotation for a service or repair.

WhoCanFixMyCar.com connects thousands of Britain’s car owners with local garages, with more than 45,000 requests for work posted on the website every month. It allows customers to find local garages, request quotations for work and leave reviews online. In addition, garages can access an online messaging system, enabling them to talk directly with customers prior to booking work.

Bill Stimson, Marketing Director at Euro Car Parts, commented: “Motorists are increasingly turning to the internet in their search for reputable garages and platforms such as WhoCanFixMyCar.com present lots of opportunities for independent garages to connect with drivers.

“By making the Autofirst Network more visible to motorists looking for work through WhoCanFixMyCar.com, we are helping our members win new business, reduce periods of downtime and gain customers for life. Additionally, we can see that a handful of our members have already won over 2,700 bookings on the platform.”

One Autofirst Network member that has benefitted from a profile on WhoCanFixMyCar.com is Autosolutions, in East Kilbride, Scotland. The company first signed up to WhoCanFixMyCar.com in 2014 and will have a presence on the platform for the next 12 months, through the Autofirst Network.

Owner, Drew Irvine, commented: “WhoCanFixMyCar.com has turbo-charged my business and provided a huge number of repeat customers. Since joining the platform, I have had more than 1,000 bookings. We are delighted we can continue to access WhoCanFixMyCar.com through the Autofirst Network.”

The Autofirst Network was set up by Euro Car Parts in 2016 and offers members a unique package consisting of a national warranty programme, marketing campaign support, access to an industry-leading web-based management system and technical partnerships providing training, technical guidance and expertise.

For more information on the Autofirst Network, visit: www.autofirstnetwork.com/.

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Fabriscape Lda purchases controlling interest in TP Engineering

Fabriscape LDA, incorporating EuroFlo Premium Emission Systems in the UK, is delighted to announce that Fabriscape have purchased a controlling interest in the emission control manufacturer TP Engineering Ltd. Fabriscape LDA, incorporating EuroFlo Premium Emission Systems in the UK, is delighted to announce that Fabriscape have purchased a controlling interest in the emission control manufacturer TP Engineering Ltd.

  • Fabriscape LDA is a specialist emissions manufacturer producing high quality Exhaust Systems for the automotive aftermarket from their ISO accredited factory in Portugal.
  • TP Engineering, incorporating TPCATS, are manufacturers of aftermarket Catalytic Converters, Front Pipes, Diesel Particulate Filters and Engineered Products and are based in an ISO9001:2015 factory located in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

    These two like-minded family run businesses have a combined manufacturing history and experience of over 70 years in the production of quality exhaust and emission related products. Both companies supply their products to both domestic and overseas markets.

    This strategic acquisition further enhances EuroFlo’s market leading emission control offer and at the same time will provide many additional benefits to TP Engineering’s existing customer base with improved service levels, including the same day logistics availability of products.
    Paul Stubbs continues as the Managing Director and as a shareholder of TP Engineering. The other current senior T.P. Engineering directors will also remain in the business and will comprise a new senior management team that includes Tony Stock, Commercial Director and shareholder of Fabriscape LDA.

    Tony Stock commented, “This acquisition is a great fit for both of the businesses and importantly our customers. The combination of the two businesses’ key core engineering competences will be far greater and more powerful than that of their individual parts. Both businesses are already involved in the production of ultra-premium emission control products and our mission statement for the combined operation is it will continuously focus on delivering ever improving product quality and market leading ranges based on a fast and intelligent approach to part number development. This will be to the great benefit of our customers throughout the UK and Europe”.

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VW faces UK group legal action over emissions scandal

The Financial Times has recently reported that to date almost 60,000 people have signed up to a group legal action against the Volkswagen Group following the revelations about emissions, on the basis that VW manufactured and sold cars with diesel engines that failed to comply with EU legislation on emissions by means of installing software that artificially lowered NOx emissions during testing cycles. This includes 1.2M cars sold in the UK under the various VAG brands.

In March the High Court is to be asked to approve an application for a group litigation order (GLO), similar to a US class action lawsuit, which will enable the legal action to proceed.

In the EU VW has not admitted to any wrong-doing or liability and continues to resist compensation claims, only offering a “fix” for affected cars or, in some cases, enhanced trade-in terms and similar non-financial incentives. The VW view is that their UK customers will not have suffered loss as a result of the NOx issue but will not comment further due to the commencement of the legal proceedings.

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IMI calls for government action

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is calling for the government to address the existing shortfall in apprentices by accelerating their proposed investment in careers advice in schools.

Figures show an overall drop of 61% in apprenticeship starts across all sectors since the introduction of the Levy. This has resulted from a combination of confusion amongst employers about the new processes, reluctance by smaller employers to take on what they see as an increased administrative burden and simple inertia in the transition from the old Apprentice Frameworks to the new Standards.

With government cuts having removed independent careers advice in schools in England, the IMI found that over half of young people aren’t being given the tools to explore new opportunities outside A Levels and university.

Steve Nash

Steve Nash, chief executive at the IMI said, ‘The automotive sector has seen a 15% drop in apprenticeship starts, which is relatively small compared to the overall 61% and perhaps reflects the fact that apprenticeships are a long established entry into automotive, with many excellent employers offering first class schemes. But this is still a serious issue in a sector hungry for new talent. We can only expect this to improve if government take steps to significantly improve the quality and availability of careers advice in schools.

‘The IMI surveyed parents and young people to find that over 80% of parents said they would choose university over an apprenticeship for their children. So it’s clear that reforming apprenticeships alone is not enough. Far more needs to be done to educate both children and their parents on the alternatives to University if the government is to reach its aim of gaining an even balance between those opting for the traditional higher education route and those choosing vocational learning.’

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Pothole-related breakdowns continue to rise, says RAC

Data shows that 2,830 RAC individual member breakdowns were logged between October and December 2017 where vehicles had broken down due to damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels, likely due to poor quality road surfaces.

The number of these potential pothole breakdowns was up from 2,547 in the same quarter of 2016. It suggests that the surface quality of some UK roads has already been impacted by the higher rainfall and increased days of frost during the last quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

The RAC believes the condition of many roads is therefore hanging in the balance with the potential for a further sharp rise in the number of potholes by the spring if the weather is particularly wet or cold over the next few months.

There was also a sharper increase in pothole-related breakdowns between the third and fourth quarters of 2017 than there was in the year before. While an increase is always expected between the two seasons as the weather turns colder, breakdowns rose by 45% between the last two quarters of 2017, compared to 38% in 2016.

The total number of RAC ‘pothole’ faults in all four quarters of 2017 exceeded the equivalent quarters 12 months earlier in 2016. And October to December of last year also saw the highest ever proportion of fourth quarter RAC breakdowns where poor quality road surfaces were likely be a factor, with 1.2% of all breakdowns associated with such faults – up from 0.8% in 2015 and 1% in 2016. Previously, the highest proportion of fourth quarter RAC ‘pothole’ breakdowns stood at 1.1% in 2013.

The RAC’s Pothole Index, a 12-month rolling measure of the share of pothole fault breakdowns compared to 2006, corrected for seasonal weather effects and improving longer term vehicle reliability, has risen again for the third successive quarter.

Using a base of 1.00 established in 2006, the Index for the fourth quarter of 2017 stood at 2.59 – with the higher the figure, the greater the likelihood of an RAC member suffering a breakdown caused by a pothole and so potentially the worse the standard of some roads.

The Index is now at its highest since the second quarter of 2016 suggesting that the condition of our roads has been declining steadily over the last 18 months – although at 2.59 it is thankfully still well below its peak of 3.5 reached in Q2 2010.

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2018/19 payroll changes

The Autumn Budget 2017 announced changes to tax and NI limits. What do you need to know to prepare for the 2018/19 payroll year?

Tax code changes. The personal allowance has increased. For 2018/19, it will rise by £350 to £11,850 from 6 April 2018. Therefore, unless you receive an amended tax code notification, all “L” suffix codes will need to increase by 35 for 2018/19, e.g. code 1150L becomes 1185L.

NI changes. The employment allowance, which relieves employers of the first £3,000 of employers’ NI, is still available for 2018/19. The NI thresholds have increased so both employees’ and employers’ Class 1 NI will be due on earnings over £162 per week (£8,424 per year).  If an employee is under 21, check that you are using the NI category letter M instead of A as although they still have to pay employees’ NI on earnings over £162 per week, your company won’t have to pay 13.8% employers’ NI on earnings between £162 and £892 per week. This also applies to apprentices under 25 when the NI code should be H.

Optimum salaries and dividends. If the directors are also shareholders and receive remuneration in the form of a minimum salary and dividends, what’s their optimum salary/dividend package for 2018/19? Assuming: (1) they don’t have an employment contract so the national minimum wage doesn’t apply; (2) your annual employers’ NI bill is already more than £3,000, so you will have fully utilised the employment allowance; and (3) they have not yet accrued maximum entitlement to the state pension, then the sweet spot is to go to the NI threshold but no higher. So for 2018/19, this would be a monthly gross salary of £702 which takes them up to the NI threshold. With regards to dividends, if the director shareholders want to go up to the basic rate limit (£34,500 for 2017/18) but no further, assuming they have no other income, they can have dividends of £3,426 that can be taken tax free in the personal allowance (£11,850 – (£702 x 12)). The next £2,000 (down from £5,000 in 2017/18) of dividends will also be tax free as they are within the dividend allowance. This leaves the balance of dividends of £32,500 (£34,500 – £2,000) which they will have to pay personal tax on at 7.5% (£2,437.50) due by 31 January 2020.

For 2018/19 add 35 to any tax code ending in L.  Director shareholders not bound by minimum wage requirements can receive a salary of £702 per month tax and NI free with the rest as dividends.

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