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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Autoelectro Managing Director, Tony Bhogal: “We turn threats into opportunities”

Date: 26-Jul-2018

In a wide-ranging interview, Autoelectro Managing Director, Tony Bhogal, talks business matters at home and abroad, competition, challenges for the automotive aftermarket and the future.
For more than 30 years, Bradford-based remanufacturer, Autoelectro, has stuck to three principles: range, availability and quality. The perpetuating philosophy has ensured it continues to be an established force in the rotating electrics sector, a leader in its field as the UK’s largest remanufacturer of starter motors and alternators, so what is the secret to its success?
Tony said: “We have some amazing people that work behind the scenes. From sales and product teams, to technicians and engineers, we are fortunate to have experts in their own respective fields.
“My brothers, Paul and Nicky, for example, are renowned in their sectors. Nicky is one of the best starter and alternator engineers in the UK. He works closely with our diagnostic equipment suppliers to ensure our machinery and equipment can cater and test the latest starters and alternators.
“He also reciprocates by passing on information to them as well. He might have to say ‘this alternator has a different protocol to the previous one, so we need to do some modifications to the software on the test bench.’ That kind of knowledge is priceless.
“Meanwhile, Paul looks after the day-to-day activities in the sales office and manages the purchasing of the components and old core, which is challenging because the UK car parc is so diverse.
“The cataloguing must be up-to-date, such as new applications and part numbers; in fact, we’re finding some of our competitors, both in the UK and in Europe, are keeping an eye on what we’re doing. For instance, when a new part number is launched, within a few days they have cross-referred it to our data so they have a listing as well.”
Heading to Europe
Both Paul and Nicky’s work are key ingredients of the production process of an Autoelectro starter motor and alternator. Their work is trusted by the company’s customers because of their attributes and experience gained over six decades between them. Along with the proven and stable pedigree of the brand in the UK, Autoelectro is ready to dabble in Europe – in fact, it already is.
Tony explained: “We’re so established in the UK – the key players know who we are and what we are capable of – and now we want to grow the business further. There will probably be more opportunities in Europe (as a result of Brexit) because we are not a net importer. We have an excellent distribution model in Ireland, and we want to replicate that in Europe.
“An issue we encountered previously was the transfer of old core; however, introducing new practices has meant we have a competitive and, therefore, an attractive package to offer European markets. Over the next few months, we will be working hard on the European side.
“Referring back to Paul, the work that he leads ensures we have the availability and range to suit the UK market, and as we develop our distribution in Europe, he’ll be looking to guarantee availability there as well.
“We’ve never been scared of investment, so as traction grows in Europe, the infrastructure will follow. All products are listed on TecDoc, and we have already received some enquiries which is encouraging.”
There is always an element of risk of when a company elects to stray out of its comfort zone, but having started from nothing more than 30 years and propelling itself forward, Tony is confident that history can repeat itself despite transitions in the European market:
“The European market is evolving – it never stagnates – and is more price-driven than ever before. An influx of copy products, from places such as China, has caused the price structure within Europe, including the UK, to plummet. 
“The market used to be biased towards OEM and OES, but that has certainly changed. Of course, there are challenges, but we have all the attributes to give ourselves the best chance of succeeding in Europe, in the same way we are flourishing in the UK.”
‘UK is our home and always will be our priority’
While an adventure into Europe is an exciting one, there is still plenty of work to do at home. Introductions of surcharge-free ranges and an active inventory management system for motor factors have created positive headlines and satisfied customers, while the company continues to react to an ever-evolving car parc by producing new-to-range bulletins.
Technical bulletins also continue to be produced and delivered regularly, meaning technicians are receiving the most up-to-date information necessary to diagnose and repair accurately and efficiently.
Those messages are not only filtered and spread through the trade media, but Autoelectro’s sales team, led by its UK Sales Manager Nick Hood, continue to rack up the miles by visiting customers dotted in the UK, conducting garage visits and exhibiting at trade shows.
Nick’s role is “pivotal”, according to Tony. He continued: “Nick is another valued member of the team; his role and influence should not be underestimated. He is a brand ambassador for us, as he not only sells and understands it, but he believes in it as well.
“His name in the industry is one that people know and trust, so having him spread our messages has been a coup for us. We are lucky to have him on-board.”
The relationship between Autoelectro and the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) continues to mature: Tony is a member of the SMMT’s reman committee, while Autoelectro was invited to sign up to a sustainability report that the SMMT produces annually.
When asked if Autoelectro’s escapades into Europe meant it was taking its foot off the gas in the UK, Tony chucked and shouted: “Absolutely not!”
With that question answered emphatically, he continued: “The UK is our base, our home. The reason we have been successful and survived the traumas and challenges is because we’ve grasped an excellent understanding of the market. We understand the UK car parc and ranges that are needed here, so it is critical that we carry on that path.”
The UK continues to be an unpredictable market; of course, continuing Brexit negotiations, uncertainties and, consequently, companies threatening to take their investment and manufacturing elsewhere if the final deal isn’t suited to them do not help, but Tony is adamant there are still ample opportunities – for those that can unearth them.
He added: “There is a lot of consolidation taking place in terms of motor factors joining large buying groups, and we are discovering that they are trying to create and push their own brands.
“On a lot of popular part numbers, they’re doing an excellent job – no doubt about that; however, we believe our strength comes in satisfying demand for the slower, tail-end numbers. There will always be an opening for a company, like Autoelectro, that provides a full portfolio, different ranges.
“If a customer wanted a Great Wall starter motor, for example, we believe we would be in the minority of companies that would be able to facilitate that request quickly – the same with an Aston Martin DB9 alternator. We’ll have both on the shelves, as we are a specialist, but others may not.”
Targets and the future
Tony is wily enough to not look too far into the future, but he admits that he and his brothers regularly set targets – something he says is imperative, as it is something for the company to aim for – and always look to turn a negative into a positive – or as he beautifully describes it: “Turn threats into opportunities.”
On his own future, he said: “I make sure everything is operating and functioning smoothly – as it should be – and I still get that same buzz I did 30 years ago when my brothers and I joined the business that my father had recently established.
“I am very fortunate, though, as there are some outstanding people that work here, which means our future should be secure for many more years to come.”

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