Mercedes-Benz App Helps Motorists Move To New-Age Cars

Mercedes-Benz has developed a new smartphone app that helps motorists decide if they should switch to alternatively powered cars.

Known as EQ Ready, the app can record journeys made by the user in any make of car, analyse their everyday mobility behaviour and compare it with numerous parameters of electric and hybrid vehicles. Mercedes-Benz says this makes it possible to try out e-mobility in a virtual yet realistic way. The usage profile generated is also significantly more meaningful than a once-only test drive.

EQ Ready also shows which alternatively-powered Mercedes-Benz vehicles best match the user’s individual behaviour.

The tracking feature records speed, acceleration and stoppages, as well as ambient parameters such as temperature and altitude profile, making it possible to calculate range and energy consumption. Users can also manually enter the location of potential charging stations. In the case of a hybrid, the mobility behaviour evaluation focuses exclusively on all-electric mode.

The user’s personal mobility behaviour is transmitted by Wi-Fi or mobile data to the ‘Mercedes me’ server for evaluation. The user then receives feedback such as “Congratulations! All your journeys can be made electrically without additional recharging.”

Mercedes-Benz says users can maintain privacy by disabling the tracking feature at any time. The app also regularly reminds users when data is being recorded.

Wilko Stark, Head of Daimler & Mercedes-Benz Cars Strategy and Head of CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Services, Electric), said the app shows electric cars and hybrids in all-electric mode are more suitable for everyday use than most people believe.

“Following their personal reality check with our app, even sceptics discover that an electric car or hybrid would satisfy their mobility needs,” he said.

The EQ Ready app can be downloaded free for iOS and Android.

Thatcham Research’s Peter Shaw To Step Down As Chief Executive

Thatcham Research has announced that Peter Shaw is stepping down from his role as Chief Executive with immediate effect due to ill-health.

Shaw, who has been Chief Executive as well as a Board member for seven years, has steered Thatcham Research through a period of notable change, with the organisation increasingly recognised as a global centre of excellence for assisted and automated driving assessment and testing.

He initiated a research strategy which reflected this fast pace of change in the automotive market – and more importantly, kept ahead of it with thought leadership and rapid development of safety standards.

The recruitment process to identify his successor is now underway. Strategic duties at Thatcham Research will continue to be managed by Neale Phillips and Ruth McRitchie.

The Thatcham Research Board is drawn from its 24-member insurers, who fund the essential research on vehicle safety, security, personal injury and accident damage repair.

Graham Gibson, Chief Claims Officer at Allianz Insurance and Chairman of Thatcham Research, said: “Peter has achieved so much for the business and our position in the industry since joining us.

“He has played a pivotal role in driving a new focus upon testing and influencing vehicle safety and security performance to minimise motor insurance costs. This has been hugely important due to the technological advances in active and passive car safety.

“Under Peter’s leadership, Thatcham Research has never been more relevant than it is today, and keeping our members informed and educated will remain vital.

“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Peter who has been an outstanding Chief Executive and Board member since 2011. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Ruth and Neale, who have maintained our strategic agenda so strongly in the interim period.”

Autobody Repair, Automotive Mechanics & Vehicle Painting Scholarships

WorldSkills Australia has teamed up with AAPR to secure support for its scholarship programme in collaboration with key industry stakeholders. AHG, Allianz,Castle Hill Hyundai, Concept Paints, Gemini, IAG, IAME, McGrath, Piston and Pearls and Suncorp are helping to address the skills crisis in their industry by contributing to education opportunities in the automotive industry.
Students who register to attend the Skills Show will have the opportunity to enter the lucky draw and will have to attend the event on either the 2nd, 3rd or 4th June at the ICC, Sydney to be eligible.

Keep your eyes peeled as WorldSkills Australia will be announcing the details shortly.

Blackstone Buys AMA Group’s Panel Repair Business For $508 Million

AMA Group has agreed to sell its vehicle repair business to global private equity asset manager, Blackstone, for $508 million.

The group has entered into two transactions that will lead to the demerger of its automotive component, accessory and procurement business (ACAD) and the purchase of the remaining vehicle panel repair business by Blackstone. Both transactions are subject to approval by AMA shareholders.

AMA Group Directors unanimously recommend shareholders vote in favour of both transactions.

Under the first transaction, AMA will demerge its ACAD business into a new company to be listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.  AMA Group shareholders will receive one share in the new ACAD company for each share they own in AMA Group.  The AMA board expects ACAD will have an initial value per share of 32 to 36 cents, while the panel repair component is valued at 86 cents per share.

AMA Executive Chairman, Ray Malone, said the board has addressed the challenge of funding two growing but distinct businesses by separating ACAD in to a new ASX listed company.

“This separation will ensure that neither business has its prospects limited by the competing demands of the other business for board and management attention and financial resources. Each business will be able to realise its full potential with significant benefits to customers, employees and shareholders,” he said.

AMA Group Vehicle Panel Repair CEO, Andrew Hopkins, who will continue as CEO of the Panel Business after he acquisition by Blackstone, said “Over the past two years, we have rapidly grown our vehicle panel repair operations to over 100 sites and in the process changed the way the industry engages with its primary customers, the insurance companies, to the ultimate benefit of their customers, the policyholders. Taking the business private will increase our senior management team’s focus and allow us to further improve our cost competitiveness; in the process, strengthening our insurer customer relationships. Throughout the due diligence period we have been very impressed by Blackstone’s level of understanding of our business and their willingness to embrace our plans for growing and improving the operations. We are excited about them partnering with us for the next stage of our development.”

Blackstone Managing Director, Jonathan Chamberlain, said “We are excited about investing in Australia’s leading panel repair network, and to be partnering with Andrew Hopkins and the management team. As the owners of one of the leading panel repair businesses in the United States, Service King, Blackstone understands the industry and the opportunities and challenges ahead for the business.”

Symach Installs FixStation Equipment At Mervyn’s The Body Shop In Canada

Symach announced the installation of its FixLine system at Mervyn’s The Body Shop in Kelowna, British Columbia.

The FixLine system consists of a layout and repair process that combines Symach’s patented Drytronic technology, specialized robots and the Symach Paint Application Process (SPAP) painting cycle.

“The FixStation is a modern and innovative solution that will ensure high productivity for Mervyn’s The Body Shop,” said Osvaldo Bergaglio, CEO of Symach. “The hybrid solution works as a spray booth and a workstation in one area and will allow one of Mervyn’s technicians to perform three to four repairs a day without moving the vehicle.”

Established more than 40 years ago in the Okanagan area of British Columbia, Mervyn’s prides itself on providing the highest quality repair and customer satisfaction.

“It’s all about staying on top and being the best we can be for us and for the customer,” said Jason Agostino, owner of Mervyn’s. “Symach’s equipment is helping us fulfill that.”

Mervyn’s The Body Shop is a very old Kelowna company purchased by Peter Facinek in the early 2000s. Agostino came on board as the body shop manager soon after and became co-owner of the business. Since then, he has run the shop on a day-to-day basis with Facinek as a consultant and silent partner. Agostino’s wife, Rosy, also helps in the business.

The owners always planned to open a new location and over the last several years, they have been working on the design.

During this time, they found out about Symach equipment from attending an AkzoNobel Acoat Selected performance group meeting.

“We are continually investigating newer and better ways to repair and finish damaged vehicles to ensure that customers are 100 per cent satisfied,” he said. “We learned that Symach builds exactly what we were look for,” said Agostino.

Facinek first went to Ontario to visit another collision repair facility using the equipment and then traveled to Italy to see Symach’s operation first-hand. Following that trip, Mervyn’s decided to purchase Symach’s FixLine system, two Fly dry robots and one easy dry robot in addition to five lifts.

“We already had the layout designed for the new location,” said Agostino. “Symach modified it to fit the equipment and we decided to buy the whole package rather than try to piecemeal everything together.”

It was installed in November 2017 and Symach trained all of the technicians. It has been operational since February.

“We’ve always used team systems and run a processed-centered environment using other tools, so it was a smooth transition for us to use Symach’s quality equipment,” said Agostino.

The baking equipment uses a slightly different application, but he has found that it has been working out well.

Although they are still in their infancy stages using Symach’s equipment, they have found it has already helped with cycle time in the shop. “What used to take us one and a half hours, now takes 20 minutes,” said Agostino. “You don’t have to wait for dry times. They told us that, but you never really believe it until you see it.”

Since installing the equipment, Agostino said it has helped the shop stay cleaner and it’s a nicer environment for his 13 employees to work, many of whom have worked there long-term. By installing the lifts, it has also been easier on the body technicians. Overall, he said has been impressed with the dependability and predictability of the equipment. “When I’m painting a vehicle, I know it will be ready at a certain time,” he said.

Mervyns offers a lifetime written guarantee on all of the work completed. “An important component of this is ensuring our paint booths and spraying equipment are state-of-the-art,” said Agostino. “We are committed to leading the collision repair industry in technical skills, equipment and quality of work and Symach equipment is helping us do that.”

Axalta Inaugurates New Coating Manufacturing Facility in India

Axalta inaugurated its new coating manufacturing plant at Savli, Vadodara in Gujarat, India. Approximately 70 guests, including local government officials, customers, university representatives, media, and employees attended the opening ceremony, which Axalta Chairman and CEO Charlie Shaver presided.

The 5,200 square meter plant is part of Axalta’s Savli manufacturing site that produces Axalta coatings for refinish, automotive parts, and commercial vehicle customers. The new plant will double Axalta’s coating manufacturing capacity to meet the growing demand for coatings in light vehicles, commercial vehicles, and industrial segments.

Since 2016, Axalta has opened a new and expanded Technology Centre in Savli dedicated to the Indian automotive segment. Its new Axalta India headquarters in Gurugram, within the National Capital Region, also hosts Axalta’s global IT and other back office functions. Axalta has continued to further invest and upgrade its refinish training centres throughout India to better serve customers in the growing market.

“These facilities and the significant investments made in the past couple of years are in sync with Axalta’s strong commitment to India to deliver innovative and comprehensive coating solutions to our customers in every sector of the automotive market and in other industry sectors. I am confident that Axalta’s global expertise in coatings will play a significant role in India, catering to our customers’ specific coatings requirements,” said Shaver.

Taking advantage of the booming automotive market, Axalta Savli’s new plant will be able to expand production capacity of both high and low temperature cured coatings. The facility is also designed to scale up to produce waterborne coatings for customers’ conversion to more sustainable solutions. The new plant employs environmentally responsible processes and is designed for low emissions. This helps to ensure a healthy environment for the community and a sustainable future for Axalta.

Axalta Launches Planning Course For Productivity And Efficiencies In ANZ

Axalta Coatings Systems is now offering an I-CAR® approved Repair Planning Course designed to enable estimators and repair planners to write a thorough damage estimate. The Repair Planning course from Axalta Services, will enable participating customers to walk away with an in-depth understanding of how to improve bodyshop front end processes that will not only help to improve business efficiencies and productivity but will ultimately translate into happier car owners and insurance partners.

Gone are the days when you could visually inspect a car and give a rough estimate of the damage and it would be close to the mark. Today, vehicles are highly sophisticated in design and electronics, substrates are more complex, as are the coatings and repair processes needed to get the car looking as good as it did when it left the factory. It is therefore imperative to provide a detailed analysis of the vehicle’s damage and accompanying documentation to avoid encountering cost and time crippling stoppages and, if applicable, reactive supplements.

The Repair Planning course (also known as Blue Printing) will show bodyshops how to do this effectively by helping them think through the repair not the damage. Aiming to review ALL the facts of the accident, bodyshop technicians will be able to identify the areas that need focus, with a full 100 per cent tear down of the damage area. This ensures all damage is highlighted, assessed and well documented and the repair methods comply with OEM procedures.

The course highlights these simple steps to allow bodyshop team members and insurance partners to have a clear understanding of the actual damage and what needs to be done before the job is even started. Not only will they be shown how to deliver a complete estimate of the damage but there will be no surprises during the repair process. Say goodbye to wasted technician time, increased estimator workload, excessive written supplements and production inefficiencies. And of course, the dreaded last minute missing part problem.

“It is not about how long a technician is working on the job, it’s the number of times that the job stops due to unforeseen damage or missing parts that plays a critical role in the final costing of the job,” explained Robin Taylor, Axalta Services Manager. “The Repair Planning Course will show the technician how to conduct a meticulous tear down, making sure everything needed to make a job run smoothly is there from the start. Cars will be processed faster, leading to productivity increases that translate into great profitability for the bodyshop. It is a win-win for the bodyshop, their insurance partner and of course the car owner.”

The 2018 dates for Axalta’s Repair Planning course are as follows:

  • Queensland – 11 April
  • South Australia – 17 April
  • Western Australia – 9 May
  • Victoria – 23 May
  • New South Wales – 30 May

Axalta’s Training Alliance with I-CAR means that upon completion of the Repair Planning course you will be awarded credit hours that can be applied towards I-CAR Gold Class Professionals, Platinum Individual designations, or be used to meet role‑relevant annual training requirements.

Full details on Axalta Services and the latest courses available can be found at

Car Craft Becomes I-CAR Platinum Sponsor

Car Craft increased its corporate involvement with I-CAR Australia by raising its membership status and becoming a Platinum Member, signalling its support for further professional industry development.

“The growth of Car Craft and the commitment to providing a consistent standard across their organisation nationally is welcomed and places their repairers amongst the leaders of the industry today,” said I-CAR Australia CEO Mark Czvitkovits.

“I-CAR provides the industry’s own accreditation programme for ongoing training and education across all roles in the industry. The increased support of Car Craft to the I-CAR vision is a valued commitment and will assist I-CAR in achieving the important goals that underpin the I-CAR position in the collision industry in Australia.”

Car Craft General Manager Peter McMahon added: “As a long-term supporter of I-CAR and of AMBRA shop grading, the board took the easy decision to increase our support of I-CAR Australia. The support we have received from the team at I-CAR has made our acceleration in training requirements an easy transition, from the latest vehicle technical information to liaising with local training bodies to meet our demand for welding certification, even the virtual courses have helped us meet demand.”

Los Angeles Tops Global Congestion Ranking

Transportation analytics company INRIX has published its annual Global Traffic Scorecard, analysing 1360 cities across 38 countries. Based on the findings, the US ranked as the most congested developed country in the world, with drivers spending an average of 41 hours a year in traffic during peak hours. This cost the drivers nearly US$305 billion in lost productivity in 2017, an average of US$1445 per driver.

The US had three of the top five most congested cities globally, with Los Angeles (first), New York (tied for second with Moscow) and San Francisco (fifth) costing an economic drain of more than US$2.5 billion thanks to traffic. Angelenos spent an average of 102 hours last year in traffic jams during peak congestion hours, costing them US$2828 each and the city US$19.2 billion from direct and indirect costs. Direct costs relate to the value of fuel and time wasted, and indirect costs refer to freight and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic, which are passed on to households through higher prices.

Despite the high costs of congestion in Los Angeles and other cities, American drivers, in general, had it easier than their German counterparts. At US$1770, congestion cost the average German driver 57 per cent more than an American, after adjusting for exchange rates and the cost of living. Detroit had the lowest cost of congestion among the top 25 US cities, at US$1256 per driver, and ranked among the bottom in all three categories of costs: commuting, business and leisure/other.

In the UK, the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard analysed congestion in 111 cities and towns. London remained the UK’s most congested major city for the 10th year in a row, ranked second in Europe after Moscow and seventh in the world overall. Drivers in London spent an average of 74 hours in gridlock during peak hours, an increase of one hour since last year. This contributed to congestion costing London drivers US$3390 a year each and the capital itself US$13.26 billion from direct and indirect costs.

Along with the capital, Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Edinburgh made up the UK’s five most major congested cities. Drivers in Manchester spent 39 hours in congestion during peak hours, and 10 per cent of their total drive time (peak and non-peak hours) in gridlock. This in turn cost each driver US$1958, and the city US$481 million. Motorists in Birmingham spent over nine per cent of their total drive time in congestion last year, costing the city US$882 million.

The True Cost Of Motor Vehicle Body Repair Is About To Get Real

The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) Limited and its affiliated organisation, the Australian Motor Body Repairers Association (AMBRA), launched a new cost calculator tool that will assist motor body repair businesses transparently identify their costs and a charge out hourly rate for their business.

The tool, which has been independently analysed by national business advisory and accountancy firm BDO, and examined by the Australian Tax Office (ATO), enables all motor body repair business owners / management to capture all of the costs associated in running their businesses. The tool also includes helpful worksheets for Profit and Loss, Tradespersons costs, and has the added potential of highlighting areas of business operations where further efficiencies can be made and / or improvements to productivity.

AMBRA Chairman, Jeff Williams, said the cost calculator would help motor body repair businesses not only identify their actual costs of doing business, but assist in determining a fair, reasonable and transparent ‘shop’ or business charge out hourly rate that was verifiable, defendable and in accordance with sound business and accounting practice.

‘Too many motor body repair businesses, who have heavily invested in training, equipment, tooling, and in meeting the demands of a rapidly changing automotive industry, are being forced to accept rates and charges demanded by work providers that simply do not reflect the costs of their business and placing them at a significant disadvantage or even jeopardizing their future’ Williams said.

‘Most work providers to the motor body repair industry have their own calculators or processes that are required to be applied in order to secure work. These tools or processes rarely capture the complete picture and contain elements or parameters designed to produce a pre-determined hourly charge rate outcome. This leads to different motor body repair businesses, with different capabilities or services, differing levels of staff and costs, and even different locations being subjected to a rate for their services which are not reflective of their actual costs – even though they may have already made significant improvements, generated efficiencies and productivity enhancements to be competitive,’ Williams said.

MTAA CEO, Richard Dudley, said the development and provision of the cost calculator tool was an essential element in providing transparent competition in the motor body repair sector and had involved all MTAA State and Territory Member Associations and their body repair membership as well as trusted partners and business associates.

Dudley also highlighted the importance of Federal Government initiatives, particular the ATO and ACCC programs, designed to improve the business acumen of particularly small business.

‘The development of this tool highlights the value of relationships and collaboration by the MTAA and Members with these Departments and Agencies to improve the sustainability and profitability of its business constituents. In particular, the MTAA is grateful for the work of the small business team in the ATO for providing essential feedback and suggestions for improvements to the tool,’ Dudley said.

MTAA also notes the ATO acknowledged ‘The challenge faced by the Smash Repair Industry to influence and control profit margins in a competitive economic environment largely controlled by insurance companies is clear. Accurate calculation of direct and indirect costs places smash repair businesses in a more powerful and informed position to negotiate contracts, prepare quotes and ultimately operate successful businesses.’

The calculator will be distributed and be available to MTAA Member motor body repair businesses from 2 February 2018.