The new ‘Automechanika – Let’s talk business’ series of talks, which brings together key international players, associations and supporters from the automotive aftermarket to discuss pressing topics, kicked off as a digital event on 30 October with a discussion on the coronavirus and its impact on the automotive aftermarket.
In the first web talk, leading international suppliers exchanged views on the coronavirus’s impact on the aftermarket and the challenges it poses for supply chains. The guests taking part in the discussion were a list of automotive aftermarket executives:
- Manfred Baden, President Automotive Aftermarket at Robert Bosch;
- Rolf Sudmann, Executive Vice President at ContiTech
- Jean-Francois Bouveyron, Vice President Aftermarket EMEA at Delphi Technologies Aftermarket
- Michael Soeding, CEO Automotive Aftermarket at Schaeffler
- Helmut Ernst, Senior Vice President Aftermarket at ZF
According to the discussion, neither the automotive industry nor its suppliers were prepared for the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are experiencing what is probably a once-in-a-lifetime crisis… and we have been on a roller-coaster for a number of months now,” said Bouveyron. “Business declined dramatically in March, but it recovered significantly in summertime. To me, this demonstrated the resilience of the aftermarket, and it showed that it was able to do a far better job of coping with the crisis than the OE market could, for example.”
“Like many parts manufacturers, we have to manage supply chains with a high international complexity,” said Sudmann. “To be honest, this far-flung system was not very resilient during the spring when we were all facing the coronavirus crisis for the first time.”
In some cases, production was shut down and companies were then confronted with the challenge of dealing with rising orders, which were often unscheduled. Following the first quarter, however, the supplier industry began a slow recovery, and companies learned a great deal from the situation that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic and global lockdown.
“We have used the time to improve our supply chain management and the processes within the supply chain,” continued Sudmann. “Furthermore, we have strengthened our collaboration with many of our international partners, especially in the fields of digitalisation and forecasting. That is why I am confident about the future.”
Bosch’s supply chains were relatively stable, and the company said it is benefiting from this in the current situation as well.
“Despite this difficult situation, we at Bosch managed to maintain our supply chains over the entire period, which gave us a very good basis for the ramp-up over the past few months,” said Baden. “Today we can say that demand has improved markedly in almost all aftermarket product areas.”
Participants in the Automechanika Talk were also in agreement that a sophisticated crisis management system is essential.
“Establishing an effective crisis management system is the key,” said Soeding. “Everything possible must be done to prevent the shutdown of production and logistics on account of coronavirus infections amongst the workforce. We have to focus on the health and safety of all our associates.”
The panel also emphasised that close contacts and dialogue with customers are extremely important for improving forecasting and reacting quickly and flexibly to changing situations.
“COVID-19 in combination with electric mobility and a shortage of funds have really propelled the consolidation process,” said Ernst.
As the situation still fluid, with rapidly rising COVID-19 case numbers across the United States and Europe, no one wanted to venture any predictions about the future.
“With coronavirus numbers rising again all over the world, it’s not possible to make a forecast,” said Baden. “We have to keep a close eye on the situation, so that we will be able to react quickly when the need arises.”
“The situation forces us to be extremely agile,” said Bouveyron. “We are being confronted with a second wave, and there is huge uncertainty about the end of the year.”
The Automechanika Talk video offers many more insights and trends and is available to watch online in English here.