Robayne Goes Into Voluntary Administration

A Perth-based national distributor of paints and coatings has entered voluntary administration owing $12 million to creditors.

Robayne, which operates 14 outlets in WA, the Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, called in administrators from FTI Consulting following action by a major supplier.

Robayne listed $5 million owing to trade creditors and another $7 million to lenders. The action puts 86 jobs at risk.

Joint administrator Ian Francis said FTI was working closely with Robayne’s management team, customers, suppliers, and employees as it sought to find the best way forward. Options for the business include a restructure or sale.

Francis said the company is working with its financier and a third party to restructure the existing debt facilities to longer term loans, which will create less pressure on cash flow in the short term.

Established in 1974, Robayne turned over $36.4 million last financial year. The company distributes paints and protective equipment to body shops, as well as industrial and commercial graphic sectors.

Will German Manufacturers And Suppliers Ally Over Autonomous Cars?

Leading German car manufacturers could join forces to advance together in the race for autonomous cars, according to German media reports.

Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, as well as suppliers Bosch and Continental are “evaluating” the possibility of an alliance to develop autonomous mobility, according to the German weekly Manager Magazin.

Earlier, the daily Handelsblatt had already held discussions between Daimler and BMW, while Bloomberg had reported preliminary talks between these two manufacturers in late 2018.

BMW, which already cooperates with Fiat and Intel, told AFP that “other companies are interested in a collaboration” around its “non-exclusive” platform for autonomous driving.

“Strategic partnerships and a large network of research and development are key success factors” because of the “substantial investment” necessary for the development of the autonomous car, explained a Volkswagen spokesman. Thus, the group “considers several projects in common with other companies in all regions of the world,” he added, refusing – like his counterpart at BMW – to specifically comment on the different press information.

Daimler, Continental and Bosch had no comment.

Last week, Volkswagen and Ford announced an alliance on vans and pickups to significantly reduce their production costs, while looking ahead to continuing discussions on a partnership in the field of electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility services.

According to Manager Magazin, the discussions between Volkswagen and Ford have not resulted in a wider agreement because the boss of VW, Herbert Diess, would prefer an alliance between German companies.

These discussions come at a time when the automotive industry is racing to develop these expensive technologies that are supposed to define the modes of transport of tomorrow.

The uncertainty and the sums involved encourage alliances: for example, Honda has recently invested in General Motors’ “Cruise” subsidiary, which is focused on autonomous technologies.

Volkswagen And Ford Launch Global Alliance

Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Company announced their first formal agreements in a broad alliance that positions the companies to boost competitiveness and better serve customers in an era of rapid change in the industry.

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed that the companies intend to develop commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for global markets beginning as early as 2022. The alliance will drive significant scale and efficiencies and enable both companies to share investments in vehicle architectures that deliver distinct capabilities and technologies.

The companies estimate the commercial van and pickup cooperation will yield improved annual pre-tax operating results, starting in 2023.

In addition, Volkswagen and Ford have signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles. Both companies have started to explore opportunities, and they have also said they were open to considering additional vehicle programmes in the future. The teams will continue working through details in the coming months.

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” said Hackett. “It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

Diess added: “Volkswagen and Ford will harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world. At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness.”

The alliance, which does not entail cross-ownership between the two companies, will be governed by a joint committee. This committee will be led by Hackett and Diess along with including senior executives from both companies.

Ford and Volkswagen both have strong commercial van and pickup businesses around the globe, with popular nameplates such as the Ford Transit family and Ranger as well as the Volkswagen Transporter, Caddy and Amarok.

The companies’ collective light commercial vehicle volumes from 2018 totalled approximately 1.2 million units globally, which could represent the industry’s highest-volume collaboration as production scales.

Demand for both medium pickups and commercial vans is expected to grow globally in the next five years. The alliance will enable the companies to share development costs, leverage their respective manufacturing capacity, boost the capability and competitiveness of their vehicles and deliver cost efficiencies, while maintaining distinct brand characteristics.

Through the alliance, Ford will engineer and build medium-sized pickups for both companies which are expected to go to market as early as 2022. For both parties, Ford intends to engineer and build larger commercial vans for European customers, and Volkswagen intends to develop and build a city van.

PPG To Acquire Hemmelrath

PPG said it has reached a “definitive agreement” to acquire automotive coatings manufacturer Hemmelrath, a German manufacturer of coatings for automotive original equipment manufacturers.

“We are excited to add Hemmelrath to our robust and diversified automotive coatings offering,” said Michael McGarry, PPG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “This acquisition is another step forward in our strategic growth plan that will provide further value to our customers and shareholders.”

Headquartered in Klingenberg, Germany, Hemmelrath is a family-owned manufacturer of OEMs. With more than 450 employees, the company operates manufacturing facilities in Klingenberg and Erlenbach in Germany, as well as Jilin in China, Duncan in South Carolina, USA and Indaiatuba in Brazil.

Hemmelrath supplies automotive plants worldwide and more than seven million vehicles are coated with its products each year.

“The fit between Hemmelrath and PPG is complementary,” said Rebecca Liebert, PPG Senior Vice President, Automotive Coatings. “The acquisition will enhance PPG’s automotive coatings offering and add formulating and manufacturing solutions.”

Volkswagen Toolmaking Opens 3D Printing Centre

The Volkswagen brand’s Toolmaking unit says it is adding a “highly advanced” 3D printing centre to its facilities in Wolfsburg, bringing the “most highly advanced generation of 3D printers” to the Volkswagen Group to enable the production of complex vehicle parts in the future.

“The 3D printing centre takes Volkswagen’s additive manufacturing activities to a new level,” said Dr. Andreas Tostmann, board member for production of the Volkswagen brand. “In two to three years’ time, three-dimensional printing will also become interesting for the first production parts. In the future, we may be able to use 3D printers directly on the production line for vehicle production,” Tostmann added.

VW says the new generation of 3D printers developed in cooperation with US manufacturer HP is the most modern within the Volkswagen Group and is based on the binder jetting process, which supplements the previous selective laser melting (SLM) process. Binder jetting not only makes metallic 3D printing considerably easier but also faster, while in future, it will be possible to manufacture production parts in addition to prototypes, according to Volkswagen.

At the opening ceremony, Oliver Pohl, Head of Additive Manufacturing, underlined the performance of the team which was said to have recorded outstanding achievements for the future since the start of conversion work a year ago. “Here, we have created an innovative centre which will be of tremendous strategic importance for Volkswagen in the future.”

“The inauguration of the 3D printing centre underlines the importance of Innovation Fund II, which makes investments like this possible,” said Works Council member Susanne Preuk. “The Works Council welcomes the fact that the company is opening up to new technologies and shaping them in a future-oriented way in the interest of the employees.”

To date, the Volkswagen Group says it has mainly used the SLM process for 3D printing with metals. In this process, the material used, such as steel, is applied to a base plate in a thin layer. A laser beam then melts the powder at the points where the component is to be created. The molten powder hardens, forming a solid material layer. The new printers at the centre will now allow the use of other 3D printing processes such as binder jetting. In this additive process, components are manufactured using a metal powder and a binder applied in layers. The metal part which has been printed is then “baked” in a sintering process. Volkswagen say in future, the various processes, which each have specific applications, will supplement each other in an ideal way.

Caliber And Abra Merge To Create The Largest Collision Repair Network

Caliber Collision and Abra Auto Body Repair of America have announced a definitive merger agreement, with the combined collision repair facility operator to have more than 1000 locations.

“This combination will allow us to offer even greater satisfaction for our valued customers and insurance clients while creating new opportunities for the talented teammates of both companies,” said Steve Grimshaw, Caliber Chief Executive Officer. “With more than 1000 stores in 37 states and the District of Columbia, we look forward to providing customers and insurance clients with the flexibility and convenience that come with the broadest geographic coverage in the United States and a full suite of services. We’re confident the technological and operational investments will create unparalleled customer service, enhanced repair quality and industry-leading metrics, all of which advance our purpose of restoring the rhythm of our customers’ lives.

“We plan to maintain all existing centres from both companies as we develop and execute a plan to work smarter, generate growth, offer expanded services, drive operational excellence and reward talent across the organisation. Recognising the critical importance of top talent to our success, we will be retaining all teammates in the field at both Caliber and Abra centres, and we look forward to creating a culture that supports our teammates as they expand their careers across a larger organisation, accelerated by industry-leading development programmes,” said Grimshaw.

“Our industry becomes more complex every year,” said Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi. “The combined company will invest in the equipment, training and technologies that will allow our teammates to build their careers while continuing to meet and exceed our customers’ needs for years to come. Abra’s leadership team is excited by the opportunities this combination with Caliber creates for customers, insurance clients and teammates. We look forward to seeing our traditions of stellar customer service, unparalleled operational excellence and team development taken to the next level across the United States.”

The transaction is expected to close in early 2019 with Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw to lead the combined company.

Ann-Fandozzi-ABRA
Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi.
Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw.

AkzoNobel And McLaren Celebrate 10-Year Partnership

AkzoNobel and McLaren celebrated 10 years of collaboration at the SEMA automotive show in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month.

The partnership began in 2008 when AkzoNobel became the official supplier of paint solutions for McLaren Racing. McLaren has used the company’s premium Sikkens brand for its Formula 1 cars ever since.

AkzoNobel has also been a technology partner to McLaren Automotive since 2012, with all McLaren road cars being fully painted in the company’s products.

“Working with partners like McLaren is a perfect example of our commitment to delivering cutting-edge innovation,” said Keith Malik, Key Account Director of AkzoNobel’s Automotive and Specialty Coatings business. “We’re proud to have partnered with them for 10 years and demonstrate our shared passion for high performance technologies and performance.”

Simon Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of McLaren Racing, said: “Our decade-long relationship with AkzoNobel has led us to new innovations, scientific and sustainable advancements and quality finishes. Their longevity in the marketplace, coupled with the technology we’ve developed together, has helped us in our ongoing pursuit of high performance, and we’re thrilled to call AkzoNobel our partner.”

The livery for this season’s MCL33 F1 car has made an impact, with the Papaya Spark colour scheme winning a BBC poll for best-looking car.

AMA Group Announces Executive Management Team, Board Changes

AMA Group has announced several management changes that will take effect at the conclusion of the 2018 Annual General Meeting to be held on 22 November.

Andy Hopkins will become Group Chief Executive Officer while Anthony Day will join the board as an independent Non-Executive Director. Ray Malone will continue as Chairman.

AMA described Day as one of Australia’s leading insurance industry executives who has more than 30 years of industry experience. Day was recently the Chief Executive Officer of Suncorp Group’s Insurance Operations, one of Australia’s largest insurance businesses. In that role, he had responsibility for both the Group’s General and Life Insurance operations within Australia which incorporate AAMI, GIO, Vero, Shannons and Asteron.

Hopkins said AMA is very fortunate to have Day join its Board of Directors.

“His level of understanding of our key insurance company customers’ service needs is without peer.  We look forward to being able to utilise his knowledge in our business to deliver better outcomes for our customers”.

The company has also appointed Steven Becker as Group Chief Financial Officer following the resignation of Ashley Killick. Becker has spent the past two years as the Chief Financial Officer of Affinity Education Group. Prior to that, he was the Chief Financial Officer of the formerly ASX-listed Mantra Group for eight years.

AMA Group says Becker has extensive experience in high growth organisations providing financial and strategic leadership. He will be based in South-East Queensland with the finance teams and commence with the company in early February 2019.

In the interim, the Chief Financial Officer role will be performed by AMA Company Secretary and financial accountant, Terri Bakos, and the General Managers of Finance in the Panel Repair and ACAD businesses.

Malone said the changes mark an important milestone in the development of AMA Group.

“In a little over six years, the business has grown from a small troubled aggregation of automobile related businesses to Australia’s leading automobile panel repair and aftermarket parts operator. It has been my pleasure to lead the business through this stage of its development.

“The business has now reached a size that it requires a more traditional governance structure and the addition of new talent to the executive management team and Board of Directors to ensure that the next six years are equally as successful. Mr Hopkins has been my partner in growing the panel repair business over the last three years and he is ideally suited to succeed me as Group Chief Executive Officer. In this role, he will rely heavily, as I have for the last six years, on Mr [Ray] Smith-Roberts to continue his exceptional leadership of the ACAD business. Together, they will ensure AMA Group realises the significant market opportunities before it.”

Hopkins responded by saying: “Mr Malone has done an amazing job leading the creation of a truly market leading business over the last six years. It has been my pleasure to work closely with him for the last three years and over that time I have never ceased to be amazed by his entrepreneurial skills and innovative approaches to problem solving which have added very significant value to the business. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him as Chairman and head of the procurement business. The procurement business of AMA is an area of significant potential growth for AMA and I look forward to working with Mr Malone in growing that business.”

According to AMA’s latest annual report, revenue grew by 33 per cent to more than A$509 million, up from A$382 million in the previous year. The group completed 26 acquisitions, integrated 30 new facilities, and opened four new greenfield sites, taking the total number of facilities to 114.

AMA Group has also corrected an article in “The Australian” which asserted that AMA is “teaming up with Blackstone to form an offer for Suncorp’s Smash Repairs Group, Capital SMART”.

In a statement, AMA said the suggestion is incorrect. “AMA is not teaming up with Blackstone to make any offer for the Capital SMART business,” the statement read.

“Further, AMA’s announcement that Mr Anthony Day will be joining the board of AMA after the AGM has no connection with Suncorp selling the Capital SMART business. Mr Day will be joining the board due to his excellent credentials and experience in the insurance industry in Australia, AMA’s core customer group. The board of AMA believes that Mr Day will make a valuable contribution to the board.”

Seventh Car Manufacturer Hit With Class Action Over Airbags

A Sydney legal firm has added a seventh vehicle manufacturer to its class action claiming cars with deadly airbags were sold to consumers.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan (Quinn Emanuel) last month filed class action proceedings against Volkswagen, while actions have already been commenced against Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Subaru, BMW and Nissan. These proceedings are being heard concurrently in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Quinn Emanuel is expecting to file against Ford and Audi shortly, covering an estimated 2.5 million Australian drivers it says are driving cars fitted with defective airbags. The company says the airbags have been linked to the deaths of at least 24 people worldwide, including one in Sydney last year, as well as injuring hundreds of others.

Quinn Emanuel Partner, Damian Scattini, described the airbags as “ticking time bombs”.

“Over time they degrade,” said Scattini. “As they degrade they become unsafe. On our case, these manufacturers knew these airbags were dangerous, but kept using them in their vehicles, putting profits before the safety of their customers. Car manufacturers have known about this problem for years. These airbags need to be off the road.”

The legal firm is urging consumers to check if their vehicle is subject to recall and to act immediately if a replacement airbag is available. However, Quinn Emanuel says that due to a global shortage of airbags, many Australian drivers are only being offered a temporary fix, with a like for like replacement, meaning that their airbag will have to be replaced again in the future.

The company claims that in many cases, the replacement airbags contain the same propellant used in the defective airbags, ammonium nitrate, which deteriorates over time. However, consumers are still encouraged to obtain a temporary fix, as a newer defective airbag is preferable to an older defective airbag.

“It’s about responsibility and accountability. Car manufacturers need to make good the harm they’ve done to their customers. No more, no less,” said Scattini.

Quinn Emanuel says consumers whose vehicle were, or are, subject to the Takata airbag recall may be entitled to participate in their class action proceedings. Vehicle owners are not excluded from participating if they have had faulty airbags replaced.

Axalta Partners With Volgren Buses In Australia

Axalta has announced a new partnership in Australia with Volgren, a leading bus manufacturer owned by Brazilian company Marcopolo S.A.

Axalta recently signed an agreement to be the sole supplier of coatings to Volgren for both newly manufactured buses and for the repair of existing ones. The partnership consists of an all-inclusive training and support package, as well as an extensive trial period to assess product performance.

“Having been with one paint company for the past 20 years, we did not make the decision to change easily,” said Michael Healy, Volgren Supply Chain Manager. “For the first three months we put Axalta’s products and back-up service through intense testing and were very pleased with the professionalism, commitment and quality that Axalta delivered. I’m 100 per cent confident that the change we made will ensure Volgren buses continue to lead the market for many years to come.”

As well as developing customised product solutions using the Imron Fleet Line range, Axalta said it demonstrated paint application techniques that could assist in improving cycle times in the coating application. This was supported by comprehensive on-site training and repair process documentation.

“As a market leader in Australia, Volgren needed a coatings partner to work with them through all levels of the business,” said Steven Brett, Axalta’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. “With the introduction of new products, new processes and improved quality control across all Volgren locations, we demonstrated that Axalta could meet Volgren’s requirements.”