IAG Reviewing Asian Operations

Insurance Australia Group, the country’s biggest general insurer by market share, is conducting a strategic review of its Asian operations, including considering selling off units in the region.

The company says in a statement that as part of its Asia strategy, it has focused on growth via market consolidation and increased ownership. IAG’s current assessment is that such opportunities are limited, resulting in its decision to conduct a strategic review of the options available for its Asian businesses.

“We have always taken a measured approach to Asia and we believe this is the right time to review the immediate and longer term strategic options for our individual Asian businesses given the limited expansion opportunities,” IAG Managing Director and CEO Peter Harmer said.

This review is expected to be concluded by the end of 2018.

“The options could range from, if we had the opportunity, to investing more capital under conditions we think are appropriate, all the way through to disposing of assets,” Harmer said.

IAG reveals that the Asian division contributed a profit of A$15 million in the six months to 31 December 2017, compared to A$2 million in the corresponding period the previous year. The increase is attributed in part to recovery in Thailand and growth in India.

The 1H18 results, though, include a writedown of A$50 million (US$39 million), included in the amortisation and impairment expense line, following a review of carrying values applicable to the respective Asian businesses.

IAG, which specialises in motor and property insurance, has invested about A$850 million in the region since 1998 and has a presence in five Asian markets – Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and India.

IAG’s net profit increased by 24 per cent to A$551 million in the six months ended 31 December 2017, helped by higher fees and reserve releases. Gross written premiums rose by 0.6 per cent to A$5,834 million for the half-year, helped by rate increases. The company expects “low single-digit growth” in gross premiums for the full year to 30 June 2018.

Volkswagen Group Opens Future Center Asia In Beijing

Volkswagen Group officially opened Future Center Asia, one of three such centres worldwide that will take a whole new approach to envisioning people’s mobility needs of the future and creating visionary solutions. “With these centres, we are breaking down the traditional barriers by bringing together exterior and interior designers, user experience experts and specialists for Artificial intelligence, Smart City, Start-up scouting and Engineering. Inspired by people we want to develop visionary products and services to give our customers a feeling of being home even when they are on the road”, says Jochem Heizmann, member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG as well as the President and CEO of Volkswagen Group China.

The new centre forms part of Volkswagen’s global network of three Future Centers, with Future Center Europe located in Potsdam, Germany, and Future Center California in Belmont, Silicon Valley. The Future Centers have been established in key regions to address the increasing regional differentiation in the mobility market and access best talent pools. Future Center Asia will provide mobility solutions specifically for the Chinese and Asian markets and ideas and concepts that also can be transferred to the world. The group-wide solutions will be integrated into our strong brands.

As a network, the three Future Centers act as global incubators for innovative ideas and as competence centres that bring together the creativity and the knowledge of the Group family. While Future Center California draws on influences from Silicon Valley and focuses on the best digital user experience, UX software and accessible mobility solutions, Future Center Europe mainly works on the development of future mobility concepts based on self-driving automobiles like SEDRIC, as well as overall vehicle design. Future Center Asia, meanwhile, works intensively on special design concepts for China and Asian markets. Strong exchange between all Centers will enable solutions from each to be transferred throughout the global markets.

BASF Opens Its First Automotive Coatings Production Plant In Thailand

BASF’s Coatings division has opened a new automotive coatings plant at its Bangpoo manufacturing site in Samutprakarn province, Thailand. The new plant is the first BASF automotive coatings manufacturing facility in ASEAN, and will produce solvent-borne and waterborne automotive coatings to meet growing market demand in the region.

“BASF is a trusted partner of all major automotive manufacturers around the world, with a broad competence in all coating layers,” said Dirk Bremm, President of BASF’s Coatings division. “The inauguration of the new plant demonstrates our commitment to meeting customer expectations for advanced coating technologies and products in ASEAN, for ASEAN.”

According to the LMC Automotive Report of November 2017, this year’s total ASEAN car production is anticipated to reach around 3.9 million vehicles. Thailand will account for more than 50 per cent of this market, representing the largest coatings market within ASEAN, followed by Indonesia and Malaysia.

With an increasing number of automotive OEMs engaging in production and technology development activities in ASEAN, BASF says there is a growing need for local innovation in coatings solutions and products, as well as a high degree of technical service.

“With our robust capabilities in Thailand, we meet the increasing demand for sustainable and eco-efficient solutions,” said Peter Fischer, Senior Vice President, Coatings Solutions Asia Pacific, BASF. “Working closely with our automotive customers globally and regionally, we are committed to be the partner of choice and drive for growth and success in the highly competitive ASEAN market.”

The new production plant in Bangpoo complements the facilities at the Coatings Technical Competence Center ASEAN, which opened in September 2015 at the same location. The technical centre includes a laboratory for product development, high performance application facilities and colour design, as well as a small batch production unit.

“BASF has been active in ASEAN for over 50 years with a strong footprint in Thailand,” added Andrea Frenzel, President South & East Asia, ASEAN & ANZ, BASF. “With our new automotive coatings plant, we aim to help Thailand strengthen its role as a key market and production hub for the automotive industry in ASEAN, and to support the economic development of the neighbouring countries.”

Thatcham Research Passes Parts Certification To TUV Rheinland AG

Following an in-depth review and assessment of the certification of after-market car parts, and consultation with its Insurance Members, Thatcham Research has decided to hand over all after-market parts certification activities to its current partner TÜV Rheinland AG.

The Thatcham Research/TÜV Rheinland partnership will officially end on 31st March 2018, with Thatcham Research not providing any new after-market parts certification services as of 1 January 2018.

The move allows Thatcham Research to invest more resources into the priority areas of active safety systems and vehicle structures/materials, that are increasingly contributing to repair costs. In parallel, the company is also gearing-up its investment in countering the growing risk of cyber theft of vehicles.

Peter Shaw, chief executive of Thatcham Research comments: “A healthy after-market parts supply is vitally important for the UK repair industry. However, we need to make key strategic decisions to ensure that we are addressing current and evolving challenges for the repair and insurance industries. This move will allow us to achieve this, while at the same time handing over the certification of aftermarket parts to a trusted and qualified partner to ensure consistency now and in the future.”

Massimo Bianchi, Business Stream Manager Mobility TÜV Rheinland Italy, comments: “We believe that certification of equivalent parts is very important to answer the need of the market of high quality spare replacement parts. Voluntary independent certification of products is one of TÜV Rheinland’s core businesses and increases the trust in customers.”

The transition steps will be:

  • TÜV Rheinland will take over all new parts certification operations from 1st January 2018.
  • There will be a gradual removal of the Thatcham Research brand from certified parts.
  • Newly certified parts will carry the sole TÜV Rheinland brand from 1st April 2018.
  • As parts certification remain valid for two years, joint Thatcham Research / TÜV Rheinland branding will remain on certificates issued or renewed before 1 April 2018, until the date they expire

Together Thatcham Research and TÜV Rheinland have provided aftermarket certification services for the past nine years, and there are more than 1800 parts certified under the scheme.

Help Improve The Quality Of Training In Australia’s Automotive Sector

PwC’s Skills for Australia is working on an exciting project to help better prepare learners to become vehicle body repair estimators, and they are looking for industry feedback to contribute to their work.

Following months of consultation, Skills for Australia has developed draft training products aimed to address skills gaps in existing training for vehicle body repair estimators. Now members of the public have been invited to review these products and provide their feedback.

To contribute to this project, simply visit the Skills for Australia  website and download the draft training products. Then email your comments to info@skillsforaustralia.com or arrange a time to speak with a member of the team.

Feedback on the draft training products in the scope of this project will be open until Thursday 21 December 2017.

PwC’s Skills for Australia operates as a Skills Service Organisation, and is responsible for the vocational qualifications and training packages in the automotive industry.

Working with Industry Reference Committees made up of members with experience and expertise covering the entire Australian automotive industry, Skills for Australia’s role is to ensure that training packages reflect the needs of employers and students.

The Training Packages that cover the automotive sector include:

If you are interested in the work PwC’s Skills for Australia is doing, and would like to be kept up to date on new projects in your area of expertise, you can follow them on LinkedIn or subscribe to their mailing list.

LKQ Corporation Announces Agreement To Acquire Stahlgruber GmbH

LKQ Corporation has signed an agreement to acquire Stahlgruber GmbH for approximately €1.5 billion (A$2.35b). Headquartered in Germany, Stahlgruber is a leading European wholesale distributor of aftermarket spare parts for passenger cars, tools, capital equipment and accessories with operations in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia with further sales to Switzerland. Stahlgruber’s facilities include 228 sales centres, six warehouses, and an approximately 128,000 square metre advanced logistics centre that is strategically located in Germany, serving more than 100,000 professional clients and offering over 500,000 SKUs.

LKQ expects to complete the transaction late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2018, subject to required regulatory approvals.

“This transformative acquisition solidifies LKQ as a leading Pan-European aftermarket mechanical parts distributor, and further enhances our global diversification strategy,” stated Dominick Zarcone, President and Chief Executive Officer of LKQ Corporation. “Stahlgruber has a history of delivering above-market growth and its stellar industry reputation is an ideal fit with our culture; we are extremely proud to welcome the approximately 6600 Stahlgruber employees to the LKQ family. Importantly, we believe that our combined efforts will create tremendous long-term value for our customers and stockholders and growth opportunities for our collective team members.”

World’s First Full Service Mercedes-AMG Dealership Opens In Sydney

Mercedes-AMG has this week opened a new stand-alone, full-service showroom to showcase its performance vehicle range in Sydney. To be known as AMG Sydney, it is the first dedicated sales-and-service showroom for Mercedes-AMG vehicles in the world.

Prominently positioned adjacent to the Kingsford Smith Airport domestic terminals, the new showroom represents the sports car and performance brand in a discrete architecture for the first time in Australia, and will present customers with an immersive yet approachable brand experience.

Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes AMG GmbH said “We are very proud to open our second stand-alone store here in Sydney. It is a great chance to underline the importance of the Australian market to our brand and to ensure that our customers can experience the AMG spirit as well as the ideal service for their car – everything of course Affalterbach approved.”

AMG Sydney Dealer Principal Vaughan Blackman promises “a benchmark AMG centre that will offer the best in AMG sales, service, parts and finance”.

A dedicated team has been selected to deliver on this promise and includes an AMG Brand Manager, sales specialists and AMG technicians – all of whom are graduates of the Mercedes-AMG training academy in Affalterbach, Germany.

The opening of the flagship showroom fittingly celebrates Mercedes-AMG’s 50th Anniversary. “AMG Sydney is the result of the vision, hard work, and dedication of a team of people from Australia and around the world,” Blackman said.

The Global Collision Repair Market To Reach $206.46 Billion By 2025

The global automotive collision repair market is to reach US$ 206.46 billion by 2025, driven by a surge in automobile production, digitalization of automobile repair services and advances in manufacturing technology such as 3D printing of automotive parts to optimize costs. According to www.reportbuyer.com, Europe was the largest market accounting for 44.9 per cent of the revenue share in 2016. However, it is expected to lose its share over the forecast period because of the increase in trade barriers created by Brexit.

The increase in demand for vehicles driven by improvement in lifestyle in developing countries such as India and Brazil is expected to drive the growth of the market. Asia Pacific is anticipated to witness the fastest growth over the forecast period at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7 per cent because of the increase in production and sale of automobiles and rising living standard. The increase in the number of vehicles on the road in countries such as China and India is expected to drive growth.

The automobile industry is expected to grow due to increasing demand for passenger cars. Increasing number of accidents due to the lack of proper infrastructure is projected to drive the demand for spare parts and other special tools. The collision repair market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.5 per cent from 2017 to 2025. The requirement of quick turnaround time for replacement of parts is likely to be an opportunity for growth of the market.

Companies are investing extensively in R&D to enhance technology. For instance, in July 2016, BASF announced plans to step up its R&D activities for automotive coatings to a new world-class platform at the BASF Innovation Campus Asia Pacific in Shanghai, China.

In addition to this companies are adopting the strategy of merger & acquisition. In February 2016, 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division collaborated with the German-based Tool Technic Systems AG & Co. KG to provide the collision repair industry a comprehensive surface preparation and finishing system. The new system is expected to launch in US and Canada impacting the growth of the market in North America.

Download the full report: https://www.reportbuyer.com/product/5205070

Artificial Intelligence Technology Integrated In Suncorp Claims

Australian insurer Suncorp announced it has successfully integrated IBM Watson artificial intelligence technology into its online claims process, helping to streamline the more than 500,000 motor claims Suncorp receives each year.
Using IBM Watson’s Natural Language Classifier, the system analyses customer descriptions of motor vehicle accidents – often written in a conversational way, including colloquialisms and Australian slang – to help Suncorp better understand the circumstances and confidently determine liability.
The new digital solution relies on Watson to conduct liability analysis and assist in fast-tracking simple claims, such as single vehicle incidents with detailed descriptions. If the incident description provided by the customer is limited, or there is a low confidence score from the system in determining liability, the claim is quickly routed to a claim consultant to help make the liability decision.
Since going into production in June 2017, the proportion of customers who were fast-tracked through the process has tripled, enabling claim consultants to focus more time on complex scenarios, while helping more customers get their vehicle into a repairer and back on the road faster.
The technology enables claims to be lodged, excess paid (or waived based on the decision) and repairs booked within five minutes.
“This technology augments our claim consultant’s knowledge and expertise, providing data-driven insights and instilling greater confidence in our liability decisions. It has also helped us speed the process for our customers, while improving their experience at a time that’s often very stressful,” said Gary Dransfield, CEO Insurance, Suncorp.
“Ultimately this enhances our customers’ experience by delivering innovative digital solutions to help make the claim process easier.
“Previously, depending on the complexity or details around a customer’s claim, they could be diverted to a claim consultant for a phone call, who would then use their judgment to make the liability decision.
“By integrating Watson, not only is our claims process streamlined, but we have further improved the consistency of our liability decisions, while establishing a reliable reference point based on a very large history of claims and industry guidelines.”
Suncorp trained Watson on the complexities associated with determining liability in motor vehicle accidents using nearly 15,000 de-personalised claim scenarios and the resulting liability determination, in line with guidelines from the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority. By the end of the trial period, Watson could accurately determine liability for around 90 per cent of cases.
“This is a unique application of artificial intelligence that directly impacts the lives of everyday Australians, while helping Suncorp’s team focus their time on the more challenging incidents,” said Mark Allaby, Managing Partner, Financial Services, IBM Australia.
The technology is being used across Suncorp’s Personal Insurance brands including AAMI, Suncorp, GIO and Bingle.

EMM Opens New Headquarters And Distribution Centre

EMM expands the demand for products in the market and optimises its logistic processes further as it moves to a purpose-built new headquarters and distribution centre in the ‘Hessenpoort’ industrial area in Zwolle, Netherlands.
The new location covers an area of over 15,000 square metres and includes office space, a modern logistics centre, test and practice rooms as well as a knowledge and experience centre. The new headquarters has been awarded an extremely durable A+++ energy label. With a new warehouse management system and five loading docks, EMM is ready to further improve the quality of deliveries to its clients in over 120 countries.
The new headquarters houses new spaces like test labs and practice rooms to invent new solutions. End-users and dealers from all over the world will benefit from this and will be able to work even closer with EMM in developing, testing and producing these new innovations. According to EMM International management, the goal is to provide paint specialists with the possibility to carry out their work in a better, safer, more efficient, enjoyable and innovative way.
Construction started in February 2017 and was ready to be occupied by the end of August 2017. During September, EMM started moving its warehouse with more than 100 truck transports. All deliveries to clients started later in September from the new warehouse. The full move including the office was finished at the beginning of October 2017. An official opening of the office for clients and suppliers is planned in the nearby future.