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Access to parts identification data by FIGIEFA

Replacing batteries on stop-start vehicles

Fitting cars with Stop Start, Alternator Energy Management and Brake Energy Recuperation technology is one approach vehicle manufacturers have taken to reduce CO2 exhaust emissions. In fact one in seven cars on the UK’s roads now have a stop / start system – that’s around five million cars. To support these technologies and emissions savings, new battery technology needs to provide:

  • Extended operation in lower states of charge
  • Acceptance of current from brake regeneration
  • Greater lifecycle to support the vehicles electrical system when the vehicle is stopped and the alternator is not charging

Fitting like-for-like is vital

This is why batteries originally fitted to vehicles with stop start are made to perform to higher specifications than standard flooded batteries. For instance a Yuasa AGM battery has over 200% more cyclic durability than a conventional battery. For this reason, when you replace an original equipment battery with an aftermarket battery, it’s vital that you fit like-for-like. That means using the recommended AGM or EFB battery of equivalent size, when replacing the original equipment AGM or EFB battery.

When a conventional flooded battery is fitted to a Stop-Start vehicle, it will typically fail very quickly – perhaps within just four months. The resultant expense and inconvenience is sure to be remembered by your customer.

Even if the battery has obviously been replaced in the past, it’s definitely worth checking whether the original battery was an AGM/EFB type, particularly if the vehicle is registered after 2008. Clearly explaining to your customer the importance of fitting a battery of correct technology for the smooth running of their vehicle will help them understand why you’re recommending a different type of replacement battery.

Tools to help you find the correct replacement battery

So you know that batteries should be replaced like-for-like, but how do you identify the correct battery in the first place? The good news is that The Parts Alliance and Yuasa can help. The Parts Advisors at your local Parts Alliance branch use the industry leading parts catalogue. With just the vehicle registration or make/model, they can check whether the vehicle should have an AGM / EFB battery or standard flooded battery.

Alternatively, renowned battery manufacturer Yuasa have developed an Online Battery Lookup system. Simply enter the vehicle registration, make / model or VIN and you’re able to see which Yuasa batteries should be fitted to the vehicle. There’s detailed information about the battery itself, along with technical specifications, diagrams and the option of downloading a Technical Data Sheet. It even estimates how long it’ll take to fit the battery. This comprehensive tool is free, quick and simple to use.

To compliment the system, you can request a ‘USB Smart Button’ from Yuasa.  This saves you having to remember the website address, as one press of the Smart Button takes you straight to the Online Lookup system. It couldn’t be any easier to use.

Care when fitting

Whilst there shouldn’t be any dangers when fitting a battery, there are still a few risks to avoid, such as electric shocks and the emission of hazardous gases from the battery itself. Firstly it’s important to wear protective clothing, such as gloves and suitable eye protection, to minimise the risk to personal safety.  It goes without saying that you should never smoke near a battery or allow naked flames nearby.

One of the main dangers is short-circuiting the battery terminals. Tools or jewellery can generate enough heat to cause serious burns and in some cases, cause metal to melt and splash.

So remove any metal objects you’re wearing, such as watches, never place tools near the battery and remember to disconnect the battery before starting work. Batteries can emit hazardous hydrogen gasses, so they should always be charged in a well ventilated area.  When handling a battery, make sure the mains is switched off before disconnecting charging leads and that cables are handled so they don’t cause sparking.

Finally, once the battery has been changed, reset the battery management system (BMS). This will be done through the on-board diagnostics port. If you skip this step, the stop/start system might not work and the battery’s operational life could be shortened or system faults could develop.

Hybrids and what they mean in a modern workshop

When it comes to cars the current technical buzzword most used is ‘hybrid’. Auto-Torque looks at the past and future of hybrid vehicles and asks “is this the end of the internal combustion engine?”

The aim of making cars more efficient and less polluting has seen a rise in technology searching, with some car makers favouring internal combustion engines, some looking more and more at
cars solely powered by electricity and some looking at hybrids, where different power sources – effectively more than one engine or motor – provide the propulsion.

While straightforward electric cars have advanced considerably in the past two decades, it’s the internal combustion engine that still reigns supreme. Both petrol and diesel engines are still slugging it out when it comes to the best mixture of power, fuel efficiency and economy – but there is another way.

That other way is the hybrid, where a combination of petrol or diesel engine and electric motors offer both open-road performance and urban fuel efficiency.

It’s all terribly modern, and bang-up-to-date.

Except it isn’t – not by any means. You’ll have to go back more than 100 years to find the Lohner-Porsche mixte hybrid, developed by Ferdinand Porsche. The earliest example used a battery
to power electric motors in each front wheel, while later a petrol engine powered a generator which in turn drove the motors. The design meant there was no need for a gearbox.

Unveiled in 1900 it was hardly the lightweight hybrid you’d find today, the first model tipping the scales at 1.8 tonnes. Much of that weight was attributed to the enormous 80-volt battery.

Lohner-Porsche mixte hybrid… The earliest example used a battery to power electric motors in each front wheel.

Just like today, motor sport was a way of demonstrating new technology and Ferdinand Porsche campaigned his creation in endurance trials and Austrian Land Speed Records, ultimately
reaching a heady 37mph.

Today the principle is very much the same, but there are different hybrid configurations. An internal combustion engine and electric motor is the most common, but different fuel types can be used in the petrol engine – not just petrol or diesel but liquid petroleum gas as well.

How the two power units transmit drive can vary – usually it is one or the other, but the ‘series-parallel’ hybrid sees both power units working at the same time, with some systems seeing a second electric motor working as a continuously variable transmission. These systems are used in the Toyota Prius and several Lexus models, as well as some American Fords.

Ford has been busy advancing petrol engine technology, its EcoBoost engines offering disproportionately large amounts of power when compared with bigger engines. Smallest in the EcoBoost line-up is a 1000cc turbocharged three cylinder available in 101PS and 120-125PS forms, as well as two normallyaspirated versions. Using a traditional iron block and an oilimmersed timing belt, engineers have succeeded in doing away with balance shafts, which might have been expected on a small engine developing so much power.

With the recent VW scandal putting diesel engines back in the media spotlight motorists are looking at petrol engines with fresh eyes, and the three-cylinder Ecoboost offers many drivers the mixture of performance and economy they want.

Parts Alliance Group improves phone systems with Vodafone deal

Parts Alliance Group has selected Vodafone to implement a new Avaya phone system across the business. The objective of the new system is to make operations more efficient, while equally making day-to-day tasks easier for our employees. By moving all our phones to one single supplier, it’s never been simpler for colleagues to contact each other and customers, which can now be done by phone, email or instant messaging.

The Avaya system was chosen with the future in mind. Avaya is a recognized innovator and foremost global provider of unified communication solutions amongst professional call centres. Vodafone is a leading force in design, installation and support of UK and European contact centre solutions with the highest accreditations from Avaya.

This investment into our communication infrastructure brings versatility allowing expansion of the system’s capacity as our business grows. With the new system we have approximately 750 extensions handling an average of 120 concurrent calls, but if necessary we can easily add over 10 times the number of users and deliver 2,000 concurrent calls. Avaya’s continual system development affords opportunities to add new functionality as our business needs evolve.

With over 300 branches and multiple head office locations, a unified system throughout Parts Alliance Group is paramount and will improve the efficiency of the group’s communications.

We’ve currently invested over £500,000 in the new system which has been rolled out over 70 sites and will continue to be implemented across further locations. Not only will the system improve our communications, but it represents significant savings in the ongoing costs of calls and maintenance over the previous unconnected setup.

This is a testament to how Parts Alliance Group is committed to continuous improvement through the use of technology to advance our customer service levels and stay ahead of the competition.

The Parts Alliance provide UK’s first autoparts vending machines

The Parts Alliance has launched new autoparts vending machines in partnership with the AA. The machines are designed to provide the UK’s biggest breakdown provider with access to parts on the road, 24 hours a day. The PartVend concept is being piloted in a number of strategic locations, with the machines electronically linked so Parts Alliance members can tell instantly which products are being used and when to replenish the stock.

Mike Curry, sales director national accounts for the Parts Alliance said: “Early results are very positive and we hope to ramp up the number of locations significantly and pretty quickly. The vending machines not only allow access to stock out of normal hours but also mean we can get product closer to AA patrols in areas where we currently don’t have branches.” A typical stock item is a battery, the AA patrol gaining access using a secure key code.

Curry added: “It’s another way of extending our reach and increases the number of locations where the AA can quickly pick up parts if they haven’t got them on the van.

“They get what they need, the beleaguered motorist is back on the road more quickly and we have a sale. It’s a win for everyone.”

Peter Sephton, chief executive of The Parts Alliance, said:

“The PartVend vending concept is a world industry first and contributes to our position as a technology leader in the distribution of auto parts in Europe.”

“It integrates with our class leading electronic catalogue and our Parts Alliance Reporting and Compliance tool, , that allows our customers to gain full traceability of their parts in the supply chain.”

The Parts Alliance is the UK and Ireland’s largest group of wholly owned and franchised businesses supplying OE and matching quality autoparts to national and independent garages and workshops. The AA’s patrols attend an average 10,000 breakdowns every day across the UK.

Curry added: “It’s thanks to building up very strong relationships with major companies, and working closely with them, that when we propose innovative concepts they are amenable to them. Having completed the feasibility study we will work with the AA to identify exactly where and how many of these vending machines are needed.”

Dynamic blueprint for 2015 and beyond unveiled

In a closing-year statement, The Parts Alliance has unveiled a dynamic blueprint for 2015 and reflected on outstanding success in 2014.

Fuelled by HgCapital’s £2 billion automotive fund, The Parts Alliance is celebrating:

  • the acquisition and integration of former associate member Car Parts & Accessories (CPA).
  • outstanding results achieved by its newly-acquired business Bromsgrove Motor Factors.
  • stellar performance in National Accounts business which has grown by 100%.
  • the addition of over 100 new garages to the Servicesure Autocentres network.
  • trading well above expectations of 15 branches bought from Unipart Automotive.
  • being a founding partner in Nexus Automotive International, the major new autoparts distribution group covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
  • Chief Executive Peter Sephton also announced a series of innovative programmes, including industry-firsts, that will further boost The Parts Alliance’s national coverage, make the ordering and delivery of parts even faster, and enhance its garage programme, already the best value in the aftermarket.

Peter said: “We have made outstanding progress this year on several fronts as we have continued our long term investment plan.

“Strategic purchases such as CPA are a clear statement of our ongoing commitment to acquire and invest in high quality, profitable factors, along with infrastructure, to create a sustainable market leading position for The Parts Alliance. Our National Accounts performance has been truly outstanding. We are delighted The Parts Alliance has been able to secure high profile contracts that include the prestigious AA and National Tyre accounts, along with increasing business with our existing National Accounts customer base.”

Another highlight was the improved performance of the 15 branches acquired after Unipart Automotive went into receivership and the smooth transfer of staff and customers to The Parts Alliance.

“The absolute truth is these 15 branches, now the under The Parts Alliance brands, are trading above and beyond expectation having only joined The Parts Alliance family three months ago.

“Their excellent staff have truly appreciated the comprehensive stock pack of premium OE matching brands linked to our catalogue system and these new customers appreciate the breadth, quality and competitiveness of our branded products,” he said.

Three major initiatives unveiled today are:

  • Creation of The Parts Alliance Factors programme, a franchise opportunity for independents to distribute autoparts in new areas of the UK for The Parts Alliance.
  • The launch of AlliCat X, a turbo-charged version of the already class leading electronic cataloguing and ordering system that will enable customer orders to be processed 25% faster and which will be in place across the network by the end of 2014. The AlliCat family of systems covers electronic cataloguing, menu pricing and incorporates GS OneStop. In combination this is the leading suite of solutions for garages, National Accounts and The Parts Alliance’s own branches.
  • Strengthening of Servicesure Autocentres with a host of new benefits and with industry-first concepts ready which have already attracted 104 new members in just three months.
  • Peter said: “Our promise is ‘National Coverage, Local Strength’ and the creation of our Parts Alliance Factors programme is a prime example of how we will be working with independent factors to guarantee complete coverage of the UK with effective local delivery on the ground.

“It is a great opportunity for independent factors to build their business by being part of the UK and Ireland’s leading automotive distribution network, supported by The Parts Alliance’s buying power, class leading systems and National Accounts experience.

“The launch of AlliCat X is a technological advance on a system that is already recognised as the class leading catalogue system in Europe and it also provides the platform for a series of innovations planned through 2015.

“This new version enables customer orders to be processed 25% faster with even more accuracy, further enhancing our ability to achieve the lowest return rates in the industry.

“Our Servicesure Autocentres network has made huge strides and we will be announcing radical initiatives in January.

“One highlight will be our industry-leading National Advisory Panels headed by garage owners themselves. For the first time, they will have direct input and influence on the programme ensuring independent garages benefit from exactly what they need to run a successful workshop.”

Since HgC invested in The Parts Alliance Ltd in April it has achieved major success, increasing sales by the owned businesses within The Parts Alliance Group by over 50%, with Associate Member partners also making a massive contribution.

Peter said: “What never fails to impress me is the loyalty, commitment, talent and integrity of all the employees at all levels within The Parts Alliance, those companies that are associated with us but are independently owned as well as those that we have acquired and joined our family.

“The camaraderie, spirit and integrity that they live up to is at the core of our values and enables us to build for the long term, positioning The Parts Alliance as one of the leading automotive aftermarket distributors in Europe, engaging with our customers, our colleagues suppliers and other stakeholders in a responsible way and building long-term relationships.”

Peter added that while the aftermarket remained volatile The Parts Alliance has the funding that puts it in a unique position to offer security and stability to the market.

The blueprint was revealed as Andrew Page opted not to continue as an Associate Member.

Peter said: “We originally came back together in good faith to benefit from the synergy of our two businesses. But in a rapidly evolving market, we now believe the most beneficial way forward for long-term growth is for us to act as separate entities.

“We will continue to work with Andrew Page as our partner on selected National Account contracts that The Parts Alliance holds.”

The Parts Alliance and WhoCanFixMyCar.com join forces

The Parts Alliance, the UK and Ireland’s leading automotive parts buying and distribution group, is partnering with online servicing and repairs aggregator WhoCanFixMyCar.com to provide motorists nationwide with quality parts and value in their vehicle repairs and servicing through their local independent garage.

The partnership will also benefit The Parts Alliance customer garages through an increase in enquiries, along with fast and easy quoting and auto-parts purchasing processes.

Alistair Preston, co-founder of WhoCanFixMyCar.com, said: “We are delighted to be working with The Parts Alliance. Co-ordinating with the 13 distributors within the group has taken some time but we wanted to ensure every business is aware of the potential benefits of the partnership and has readied their teams and systems.

“It has been great to get buy-in from everyone and we are moving forward to provide even more value to motorists and garages.

“We have had nearly 50,000 people use WhoCanFixMyCar.com already and our aim is simple: to provide the motorist with choice and transparency when choosing a local garage, whilst ensuring quality parts are fitted to their vehicle.

“The Parts Alliance partnership allows us to build on this by offering quality auto-parts and, given its penetration in the UK independent sector, the opportunity to offer a much larger network of competitively-priced, customer-rated garages to the consumer.”

WhoCanFixMyCar.com intends to grow its affiliated network from 5,000 to 12,000 garages by the end of 2015.

Peter Smart, head of marketing for The Parts Alliance, said: “Partnering with WhoCanFixMyCar.com makes perfect sense for us. Giving motorists access to our range of more than 400,000 OE matching quality parts through their local garages, enabled by WhoCanFixMyCar.com, means we can help ensure they are getting the best quality parts fitted at really great value and backed up with a comprehensive parts warranty.

“We will work closely with our garage customers to help them win business through WhoCanFixMyCar.com, whether it’s how to generate quick, high quality quotations or ensuring they are getting the most out of the customer reviews.

“We’re seeing fantastic results with garages recently signing up to WhoCanFixMyCar.com winning work straight away, especially those garages that are part of our national Servicesure Autocentre network.”