Interview with Michael Soeding, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Schaeffler Group Automotive Business Unit Aftermarket

Schaeffler Group Automotive Aftermarket is the Automotive Aftermarket Business Unit of the Schaeffler Group which as such stands for an annual Group turnover of approximately 8.3 billion Euro. Headquartered in Langen, Germany, the company sells Schaeffler aftermarket products under the brand names of LuK, INA and FAG. The company has a global network of 1800 direct distribution partners and 7000 wholesale partnerships.

The LuK range of drivetrain technology parts encompasses both individual clutch parts and clutch repair sets for Passenger Cars (PC), Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), Commercial Vehicles (CV), busses and tractors. As a speciality the company offers a comprehensive repair kit by the name of LuK RepSetPro which includes the Concentric Slave Cylinders. For the full LuK range of products, components for hydraulic release systems (e.g. concentric slave cylinders) and service parts for the clutch environment (e.g. pilot bearings or guiding sleeves) are available. The portfolio of vacuum and power steering pumps covers PC, LCV and SUV applications. Pioneering technology, such as the LuK Self-Adjusting Clutch (SAC), and Dual Mass Flywheels (DMF) are available for PC, LCV and SUV. For CV and busses LuK supplies also a wide range of power steering pumps and conventional flywheels, rounded off by the corresponding accessory parts and pilot bearings, clutches, clutch disks and release bearings.

Under the INA brand, replacement parts for engine and transmission for PC, LCV and SUV, CV, busses and tractors are supplied. Besides individual belt drive components – i.e. automatic belt tensioners (mechanical, hydraulic), tension rollers, idlers and overrunning alternator pulleys – the product range for PC, LCV and SUV also includes tension roller kits and sets. In the valve train segment, mechanical and hydraulic bucket tappets as well as rocker arms and finger followers with hydraulic support and insert element round off the INA product portfolio for PC, LCV and SUV. In addition, INA offers an extensive range of transmission components for both manual and automatic gearboxes on PC, LCV, busses, CV and tractors.

Under the FAG brand, the aftermarket specialist supplies suspension components for PC, LCV, CV, trailers and busses. Besides individual bearings and wheel bearing modules for CV, busses and LCV, the product range for CV and busses includes single seals and seal kits. In the PC and LCV segment, a complete range of wheel bearing kits including the necessary service parts is available. The newly developed wheel bearing repair kit WheelPro contains all individual parts necessary for the per-axle wheel bearing replacement.

In 2005, the aftermarket specialist launched its internet-based portal RepXpert that supplies garages with all the information they need. Apart from access to up-to-date TecDoc car parts catalogues for automotive spare parts, RepXpert also provides technical documents such as installation instructions, labor time allowances and servicing plans for all types of vehicles. Garages across the globe need to register online to access RepXpert.

The company says that another major topic is training and further development of garages and staff. “The wide range of marques is constantly increasing, the model cycles are getting shorter and shorter. Manuals and even CDs are often out of date when they are issued – the production process takes too long. It is getting more and more difficult for garages to keep their information right up to date,” says a statement on the Schaeffler Group Automotive Aftermarket website.

One of the focal business areas for Schaeffler Group Automotive is automated shift gearboxes and double-clutch gearboxes that offer alternatives to conventional solutions. The company’s continuously variable transmission or CVT technology is different from the normal gear-shit procedure in that a chain passes over two conical pulleys and the distance between these can be adjusted using hydraulic control. Which means that there is a variable in the chain run radius that influences the transmission between engine and drive wheels. “An infinitely high number of transmissions ensures that the engine is always running in an optimal operating state. LuK CVT components (pulleys, link-plate chain and hydraulics) now represent the first high-performance CVT working on the chain drive principle that can be used for powerful engines with a torque range of up to 380 Newton meters,” says the company.

The advantages of CVT technology include a high level of driving comfort, low fuel consumption, good driving dynamics through the avoidance of tractive power interruption and compact construction. These transmission versions come under LuK’s XSG family. The company also has its ASG, PSG and ESG transmissions.

In October this year, Business Unit Aftermarket at Schaeffler Group Automotive will be exhibiting its products in Equip Auto 2007 which is being held in Paris between October 15th and 20th. The exhibition showcases innovation related to technological equipments for vehicles as well as innovations in marketing, garage equipment and related services.

Automotive Industries spoke to Michael Soeding, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Schaeffler Group Automotive Business Unit Aftermarket

AI: How popular has your RepXpert portal been?

RepXpert, an internationally oriented, Internet based knowledge portal, was brought into being in 2005. On the portal, independent garages and retail shops around the globe can find essential and comprehensive information required for their day-to-day business from a single source. Besides a complete automotive spare parts catalogue – an imperative prerequisite for allocating spare parts to vehicles – RepXpert offers a wealth of technical information, for example work allowances, set values, fitting instructions or servicing plans for a wide range of vehicles. In addition, RepXpert users can find useful product information in the portal’s four competence centres: engine parts, drive train, chassis and garage management. A comprehensive program for training and further education for workshops rounds up the services offered on this Internet platform which, to date, is unparalleled on the market. The RepXpert community keeps growing with today over 29,000 registered users.

AI: Please tell us a little about your company’s work on TecDoc on what it has meant for the aftermarket service providers.

TecDoc is an important and well-established aftermarket Internet platform, which was co-initiated by Schaeffler Group Automotive Aftermarket. From early on, our corporate philosophy has been to support workshops and car dealers with service and information concepts. The Business Unit Aftermarket at Schaeffler Group Automotive aims at making independent businesses fit for the future helping them to streamline work processes (customer orders, shipments), providing opportunities for training and further education around brand and products, assisting with marketing incentives and strategies to set their business apart from their competitors. Besides TecDoc, other concepts were initiated, such as the communication platform TecCom and Partslife, the waste disposal concept for the parts industry. The services provided include also the online knowledge portal RepXpert and the market research tool AutoView. This software enables workshops and dealers to reliably analyze the market potential in their sales area. AutoView breaks down the vehicle fleet into categories of vehicle make and model, allows for part allocation and evaluates the markets in 24 European countries. AUTOMEISTER, the full-service workshop concept, will further strengthen its market position in the course of redirecting its business activities.

AI: What will Schaeffler Group Automotive Aftermarket be showcasing in this year’s Equip Auto exhibition?

At this year’s Equip Auto, the Business Unit Aftermarket at Schaeffler Group Automotive will keep the focus on “Products and Services” offered by the brands LuK, INA and FAG. Besides the three areas drivetrain technology, engine parts and chassis applications for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and tractors, we will have a live workshop at the stand. Technicians will explain the correct handling of special tools and perform live failure diagnosis at the stand. A highlight of the exhibition is going to be the LuK Dual Mass Flywheel (DMF) – after all, 45 million vehicles in Europe are pre-fitted with this component. We will present our comprehensive training and information program on this particular product – from design to failure diagnoses. In addition, visitors have the opportunity to find out more about other service offers, for example AutoView and RepXpert. The daily live interviews will round-out our exhibition program. In the interviews, we present our range of products some of which will also be tested in the live workshop.

AI: What makes Schaeffler Group Automotive transmissions different? Which strategy does the company pursue in terms of the hybrid-electric power train?

Compared to the total vehicle stock, the share of vehicles with hybrid power trains is relatively small. To date, only approx. 0.5 % of new vehicles sold in Europe have a hybrid power train, while in the US they have a. 1.5 % share. Hybrid-specific components, such as electric motors, control units or batteries, are serviced by authorized garages. These parts do not play a significant role in the independent aftermarket. It is estimated that the market share will grow, to reach between 3 to 5 % by 2012, depending on the source. So we have every reason to keep an eye on the development of this market to be able to make the right decisions at the right time.

In the OE business, though, the Schaeffler Group Automotive range of products already includes specific hybrid clutches or hybridised twin clutches for twin-clutch transmissions as well as components for start/stop systems. These modules are currently under evaluation and no experience from volume productions is available so far.

AI: What are some of the new products Business Unit Aftermarket at Schaeffler Group Automotive plans to launch in the near future?

The Business Unit Aftermarket at Schaeffler Group Automotive will expand its product range with switching valve train components. An INA product innovation in this segment is the switching bucket tappet which allows switching between two valve lift lengths (valve lift switching) or between full lift and zero lift (valve or cylinder deactivation) in engines with an overhead camshaft. As a result, the thermodynamic efficiency of the engine can be optimised as a function of the engine load. Most importantly, however, this pioneering technology helps to significantly reduce fuel consumption and pollutant emission.

Another novelty in the INA range of products will be variable camshaft phasing units. The camshaft phasing unit allows for optimum setting of valve timings based on the parameters of engine load and speed. Depending on the engine concept and number of phasing units, a significant reduction in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions as well as an increase in power and torque can be achieved. Camshaft phasing units can, depending on the engine design, be mounted on both the intake and the exhaust camshaft. In SOHC engines, all timings are adjusted together.

We get a very positive feedback from workshops on the recently introduced wheel bearing repair kit WheelPro by FAG. The kit contains all single parts necessary for the replacement of both wheel bearings per axle – a valuable solution for the workshop since all components for the front or rear axle are provided in one service package which saves technicians a lot of time and trouble, since they do not have to put together all required parts on their own. The per-axle replacement helps to improve driver safety: Because, even if only one wheel bearing is visibly damaged, there is no ruling out the possibility that the second bearing is damaged as well.

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