Automotive market in Europe

Car filter suppliers produced masks, and F1's biggest rivals reinvented the intensive care unit together

“For the automotive industry, which is already struggling, the global trade impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated at about $ 5.7 billion,” says a study by Meticulous Research® launched in early May 2020. We discussed with car parts suppliers from all over Europe to collect their impressions of the last two months, the first positive indicators and their opinion on the future of car repairs industry (medium-term perspectives). We’re breaking the ice with a positive thought coming from Germany from Thomas Wingenfeld, CEO of AT Autoteile „(…) luckily we are dealing with auto parts. As we need to keep our cars running to get to our jobs, families, supermarkets etc, they’re needed daily.

THE LAST TWO MONTHS. Noud Bloks, Sales Manager TYC EUROPE B.V.: „In Netherlands there was not a complete lockdown like in Romania. Rules were explained and people were asked to use their common sense, mainly to prevent healthcare overflowing. Many business, like restaurants, bars, gyms etc, were closed. (…) In practice it is the same (as in Romania); the country is paralyzed. TYC EUROPE B.V.’s roots are in Taiwan where some years ago the SARS virus in Asia gave us some experience. TYC Europe took action immediately by protecting its employees with disinfection materials and mouth covers supplying, spliting every department in multiple groups, not working in the same time (…) As a factory, we did not stop producing, we have extreme stock position and service rate is higher than ever (the positive side effect).” Rok Kerin Zabukovec, Area Sales Manager Hengst SE adds: “It is the 1st time when the whole world ended up in the same situation. It was a bit scary as we didn’t know what to expect. As a small family company with big social care element, we have soon decided to do something out of our agenda. Having a huge know-how in filtration, a production of face masks made sense, so we bought the machines, made productions plans and started. First 100.000 pcs went as a donation to local hospitals, because getting masks at that time was more or less impossible and we filled that gap a bit. Daniel Barber, Export Account Manager Sealey, declares: “The business has remained open and functioning for the duration of the lockdown, as we are considered an essential services company.  During the 1st month of lockdown we cut back to a skeleton crew to keep the business moving and those that could work from home, were sent home. However, demand has quickly grown particularly via our internet sales as the garages have largely remained open where possible.  So we are nearly back to a full complement of warehouse operatives.”. Dennis Leisgaard Jensen, Sales Manager BORG Automotive A/S, adds: “It’s been a challenging time, but we’ve seen how a healthy and sustainable co-operation can grow stronger even when a crisis like this is threatening our wellbeing.”

POSITIVE INDICATORS. It is very clear that optimism is a crucial factor in how people and companies choose to navigate through the crisis. Rok Kerin Zabukovec, Area Sales Manager, Hengst SE: “I am a huge fan of F1. Apart from racing, this is a big industry, (…) a selfish, money oriented one. However, it was amazing to see how things can also change here. A good example is a cooperation of 3 of the biggest rivals, who sometimes even have problems talking to each other without insulting anyone: Red Bull, Mercedes and Renault. In just 2 months they came up with a solution for intensive care appliance that helps people in critical condition breathe. Normally you need at least a year to develop something like that. But here, with people sharing highest technology, and not hiding it before competitors, the solution came out in a record time and definitely saved many lives. I guess a catastrophe does bring people together.” Dawid Dziuba, Key Account Manager Fischer Automotive, says that, even though the company recorded a 35% decrease in orders (in total) and, statisticly, were the worst 2 months from the beginning of FA1 existence, a positive indicator is the fact that in Poland and Germany there was almost no negative effect in their sales: “the workshops recorded an increase in turnover compared to last year (…). At this moment we have contact with more than 90% of our partners so we believe that the COVID – 19 situation is captured in almost all European countries. We believe that will be no second wave. Our goal for this year is to reach the same turnover like last year.” In a comic-tragic note Jarco Moza, Area Sales Manager, Automotive Aftermarket ATE, summarizes everyone’s opinion: „I’d say that the best indicator that gives me confidence in the future is the agglomeration on the roads.”.

THE FUTURE OF CAR REPAIRS INDUSTRY (MEDIUM-TERM PERSPECTIVES). While some say “it depends from country to country, from government to governement: It is beside the effect of virology also policy. (…) The economic recession will be anyway huge and as long as we wait the recession will be deeper.” (Mischa Bauer, ElringKlinger AG), other choose to look at the brighter side of the situation. Fabrizio Ferrari, Sales Manager of PRASCO: “We believe that the market will somehow recover from this crisis.  The demand is there, it can’t have vanished, but before we are back to normal it will definitely take some time. Each country market is different, it’s hard to say something valid for all of them, there are those that have basically never been closed and have only reduced the volumes required, while others, like the Romanian one, have been unfortunately frozen all of a sudden. Of course since people didn’t drive their cars over the last months, they couldn’t have any accidents, and had no need to change any parts.” Dawid Dziuba, Key Account Manager Fischer Automotive, adds: “Since last week we noticed that a lot of markets are slowly opening so we think that the market needs about 2 months more to return to normal.” Oana Oprean, International Commercial Department AJUSA, declares: „I believe that the demand for aftermarket parts will return to the previous level, maybe we will even see an increase, because the sales of new cars will decrease and the tendency to repair will increase.” Paolo Cantù, After Market East and South Europe Sales Manager UFI Filters, adds: “Even though the car makers and the original equipment business will see a very though year, we have already seen some positive evolutions in the Aftermarket. In the last 3 weeks after the lockdown in Italy, the car owners have started to access the garages services, necessary to fix the vehicles after a long period of stop. This trend is going to increase in the next few months, once all the people will be back to workplace.”