Promoting Your Automotive Business

A cost-effective marketing tool you can ever have for you automotive business, the potential of business cards in getting a great deal of exposure for your products and services has long been recognized even from the time as early as printing was discovered. These things can be your mini-promotional flyers containing information people need from your business, or could serve as reminders for them to keep in touch with you in case they would be needing your products or services in the future. If you’re on your way to a trade show, a meeting or any important event where potential clients are plenty, never leave the house without them. No matter how tiny these pieces of cardboards are, any businessman knows the great value they hold, and the potential of the sales it could make once a good connection is established. To keep this cards in perfect place, and presentable at the same time, an impressive automotive business card holder will come in really useful.

The kind of material you choose to hold your precious cards give your clients a peek of your taste, while at the same time, reflects your professionalism and your business’ worth. Your business cards need to be as visible as possible to tell people about your product or services. There’s no point keeping those cards and let them collect dusts. Unless you get them out, they won’t be worth anything than just pieces of papers. The more visible they are, the more people are encouraged to pick out one or even more, and you’d be surprised at how this could result to referrals. But then, if both your cards and card holders stand out, people will surely notice your business much better.

Choosing a case to hold your business cards is as important as choosing your card design. They have to create a striking impact and leave a lasting impression. Leather is a wonderful option to give your cards a more dignified look. The material deserves a lot of respect as it is known for its outstanding quality. Metallic holders, could it be steel or aluminium and other durable and attractive materials, exudes a very professional look and could be great choices too. Acrylic and glass are commonly used as well. If you decide to have your holders plated, engraved and personalized – – – either have it bear your shop’s logo or a nice automotive graphic, it will better linger in people’s memory and increase the chance of having them come for your products or services.

Automotive Telematics Deliver a Brave New Ride

It’s Saturday, which means you have chores to do. You jump in your minivan and turn the ignition. Without being told, your favorite song is cued, your seat is automatically heated to your preferred temperature, and you are reminded of about how many miles you can drive until you need gas. “Oh,” you think, “I’ll get gas first.” With the touch of a button, your navigation system shows your current location and the price of gas at the five nearest gas stations.

Welcome to the world of telematics and the new wave of automotive in-car technology that’s quickly finding its way into our vehicles.

Telematics is deeply embedded hardware, software and telecommunications systems that provide an increasingly wide range of applications that serve our vehicles. These applications can enable safety, security, monitoring of vehicle health and remote diagnostics services. For the driver and passengers, telematics systems can provide dynamic location-based services such as navigation, traffic information, emergency assistance and a suite of other driver services based on two-way connectivity.

The icing on the cake is the idea of bringing the Internet to your vehicle. Automakers are working with Web companies to devise ways of connecting this technology intelligently, and advertisers are ready to jump on board and make it cost-effective, all to integrate your vehicle into the connected world.

Today’s vehicles are already providing a glimpse of what lies ahead. Many already have their own personal computer, their own cell phone and a display monitor. Add a keyboard or touch pad in-dash and the possibilities are endless. It all depends on how much information about yourself you are willing to provide. Data such as your blood type, favorite restaurants and even the stocks you own can prove useful. Ultimately, you will be able to tell your vehicle what you want it to do and when. Want an alert sent to your cell phone if your vehicle alarm goes off? Want to let your significant other know if your airbag has been deployed? Want to know when you’re driving by your favorite coffee shop? Easy to do; your vehicle will be as smart as you let it be.

Global automakers are working toward making telematics the core of the connected vehicle, and they have a strong incentive to integrate this technology as quickly as possible. The competition from connected mobile devices has clearly acted as a very powerful stimulant. Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) and smart phones are grabbing the consumer’s fancy, and navigation systems are on a lot of wish lists.

PND manufacturers are heavily reliant on sales and are aiming their brand of navigation as a service product. As more devices have navigation capabilities, it won’t be about the hardware but about the service – something that provides two-way communication and lends itself to the consumer’s lifestyle.

Even automakers are realizing that it’s the suite of services that will help them achieve success. The wireless mobile and wireless automotive communities are fighting tooth and nail to win consumers’ hearts and minds.

One industry that is highly interested in telematics is the insurance industry. As more in-car technologies become available, automotive insurers have the opportunity to collect driver data with as much or as little granularity as they desire. They can monitor vehicle location, speed and driving times, or they can collect data on specific, narrowly defined events, such as hard braking. With better underlying data and the accompanying ability to price risk more accurately, insurers can roll out new types of products, often targeted at customers previously considered uninsurable. Information collected in the vehicle can also be used during the claims process. The overwhelming obstacle is the business issue of cost.

This is where advertisers are chomping at the bit to jump on board. Enabling these systems in your vehicle carries a cost, whether it’s a monthly subscription based on usage or a flat fee, and bringing advertisers into your vehicle can lower the cost considerably. So whenever you download a movie into your vehicle for the kids to watch on the next trip, it’s likely to be sponsored by an online movie provider. A major quick lube company will gladly make arrangements for your next scheduled oil change.

Advertisers also see the value of “knowing where you’re going” as a valuable customer relationship management tool. Remember those Saturday chores? Heading to a home improvement store? A telematics- equipped vehicle offers advertisers sophisticated, location-based options never before available. It’s all about capturing a consumer when they’re ready to make a decision. Let your system know you’re going to a home improvement store, and you get a quick glimpse at a discount being offered by one of the major chains. Once your vehicle is detected going to that location, the incentive is activated. You get something in return for sharing your data. Advertisers love that.

It All Starts Here – A Review of the Automotive Starter Battery Market

Consolidation among the major battery manufacturers continues to shape the industry, particularly across Europe. Johann-Friedrich Dempwolff, Vice President Sales OEM/OES, VB Autobatterie GmbH, said: “If you look back to 1990, in Germany there were ten battery producers. In the UK there were at least five producers. In France there were several. In Italy there were over 50 very small businesses. All this has dramatically changed over the last decade. There are only a few strong players left in the marketplace.”

“The result of tighter environmental requirements, together with other legislation, has been the closure of plants in Western Europe and a move to the Far East, particularly China, and to super-plants,” said Lucas Batteries’ David Haseler. “We have recently announced the closure of our Birmingham [UK] factory for manufacturing, and will be sourcing from companies in Asia. Our advantage is that these are company-owned plants which will allow us to maintain a close control over supply and quality.”

Today, four valve regulated lead-acid battery manufacturers – of which three are American — have emerged as global players: Johnson Controls, Delphi, Exide Technologies and Yuasa. These four companies collectively control 55% of the global market. Johnson Controls recently signaled its intention to buy Delphi’s global battery business for $212.5 million. Yuasa recently merged with Japan Storage Battery, forming GS Yuasa Corp. Yuasa holds an 8% share of the global lead storage battery market while Japan Storage Battery has a 6% share. Their combined market share of 14% ranks them in third place in the global market.

The flood of imported batteries from tiger economies (such as China, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia) is also posing a serious challenge to European manufacturers. That has become a double-whammy for UK-based supplies since the imported units are especially cheap due to the weak dollar. Perversely, the Asian manufacturers have driven up the cost of lead because their consumption of it is so high. The price of oil is also driving up the cost of polypropylene used in battery manufacture.

Technically speaking, the starter battery market has moved completely to calcium-calcium technology, and the change is now almost complete in the aftermarket, certainly in developed countries. Lucas Batteries’ Haseler said: “There is a fast-growing requirement for sealed [non-accessible] lids with re-condensing features in the OE market, and this changeover should be complete within a few years. This reflects the trend in the automotive industry for sealed units. This is being closely followed by the requirement for a ‘tip-tilt’ lid, that is, a lid that will not allow any acid to leak out of the battery for at least 30 minutes with the battery at any angle. If the battery is still being charged, this time reduces to two minutes. This is achieved by a more complex labyrinth within the lid. This trend originated in Germany. The aftermarket can be expected to follow within a year or so. Sealed and tip-tilt lids are a consequence of the trend for greater safety and, in particular, the need to prevent access to the acid within a battery. Following the unsuccessful launch of VRLA [valve regulated lead acid batteries] into the OE market a few years ago, a second wave is now underway in companies such as Daimler-Chrysler and Citroen with its recently-launched C3. The Citroen C3 is the first of the long-heralded stop-start cars, in which the engine stops whenever the car stops, leaving the battery to power all the electrical system. This regime will increase the cycling loads on the battery, a demand which VRLA technology is best suited to supply. The drive for fewer emissions, associated with the need for better fuel-consumption, has clearly resulted in the move to stop-start cars.”

Austria’s Banner GmbH also sees the battery business moving toward calcium-calcium technology, particularly for cars introduced from 1997 onwards. Andreas Sperl, marketing manager, Banner GmbH, said: “These vehicles typically require modern charge management, higher voltage and maintenance free batteries. Given that batteries are often situated in places where the driver cannot see it — let alone the brand name — the battery must be maintenance free, leak proof and spill proof.”

On the aftermarket side of the automotive starter battery business, the market is shaped by a number of factors. “The car parc is increasing,” added Dempwolffe. “Secondly, the product is improving so the life of product is longer. And the electrical systems – which in the end determines the life of the battery – if you have a good charging system in your car, then this extends the life of the battery. On the other hand, the power consumption is increasing which is minimising the battery life. But overall, we see that the battery is extending its life and the market is stable and slightly shrinking. This of course is another challenge, especially for smaller producers. We believe that there is a slight shrinkage of the market year-on-year.”

According to industry sources, an OE vehicle starter battery for a passenger car should last around six years. That’s up from three or four years in the early 1990s. The useful life of a replacement battery may be a little less, perhaps around five years. For a commercial vehicle and motorcycle, manufacturers estimate the useful life of a battery is three or four years,

“Due to Europe’s congested cities, a lot of cars are now traveling in stop and go traffic, adding wear on the battery,” added Sperl. “The sheer heat generated under the bonnet due to an overcrowded engine compartment and the fact that batteries are located close to the engine block means that batteries are just as likely to fail in the summer as in the winter. Ten years ago, we would have said our battery aftermarket business was seasonal. But now it’s an all year round business.”

The power of brands appears to be diminishing in Europe, depending on the target segment. As far as the UK is concerned, that may relate to the fact that all the major battery manufacturers no longer produce batteries in Britain, as Paul Matarewicz, Managing Director for Varta Automotive Batterie, said: “It was driven by people who actually made batteries in the UK. As they have shut down and pulled out, they have been replaced by imported products from the Far East, South Africa and Brazil. These products are coming in without a label on and therefore you get a huge number of no-name products flooding the UK market. In the early 1990s, the UK aftermarket was about 60% branded. If you go back to the early 1980s, it was more like 90% branded. So there has been a very steady decline in brand.”

Another major issue facing the industry is the escalating price of lead. Given that lead typically accounts for 40% of manufacturing costs, any severe oscillations in price can have serious consequences. But producers can’t chop and change their strategy every time the price of lead moves. While some producers use an array of measures to manage price movements such as hedging and improving their spent battery collection rates, surely the key is to negotiate with the OEMs to assist them in absorbing the lead price increases. Put simply, battery producers can’t absorb a 100% increase in price in 40% of raw material costs. Otherwise, we shall see yet more consolidation ahead.

Although lead-acid starter batteries may not appear to have changed over the last four decades, internally, technological advances have been made to ensure that they keep up with modern demands. Lead-acid batteries will continue to start cars for many years, but the search continues for lighter, more efficient and cleaner replacements.