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Latvia, in Eastern Europe, is one of the emerging automotive destinations for cost and quality.

Automotive Industries spoke to Alvis Lecis, director, HCT Automotive.

Latvia, in Eastern Europe, is one of the emerging automotive destinations for companies looking for countries where costs are relatively low and there is already an existing automotive industry. In the early 1990’s, when Latvia gained independence, the automotive sector was already an important industry. The country had the Riga Bus Factory (RÄ«gas Autobusu fabrika, RAF) which manufactures minibuses and parts. Then there was the Sarkana zvaigzne (formerly G Erenpreiss) which made bicycles and motorized bicycles called motobikes. And there was component manufacturer Rigas Autoelektroaparatu Rupnica made parts for cars and Daugavpils which made drive chains. Only two have survived – Daugavapils (now called Ditton Pievadkezu Rupnica) and the Riga Bus Factory.

After Latvia’s independence, other automotive companies cropped up, many on defunct factory sites. One of the new companies that were born after the 1990’s is HCT Automotive. The company was set up in 1992. The company specializes in the garage equipment. The company is today one of the leading manufacturers of garage equipment among the Baltic countries. The company also offers after-sales service for its equipment. HCT Automotive started exporting its products under the brand name of HCT Technology in 2003.

While Eastern Europe may be its main market, HCT Automotive manufactures the bulk of its products in China. Some of the products it manufactures include two post and four post lifts. These lifts are used for small vehicles with the four post lift adequate for larger vehicles. It also makes full scissor lift, middle rise lifts, alignment scissor lifts, tire changers, wheel balancers, truck tire changers and wheel balancers, spray booths, motorcycle lifts, hose reels, oil lubrication equipment, grease equipment and many other garage-related products.

HCT Automotive will be showcasing its products in Paris during the Equip Auto 2007 show being held there from the 15th to the 20th of October. Like other Latvian companies, HCT is trying to cash in on its low production costs and geographical proximity to the European market. The Latvian automotive sector mainly comprises small and medium sized companies. While it was still part of the erstwhile USSR, Latvia was responsible for 17 per cent of the USSR’s total minibus production and 46 per cent of its total motorbike production.

The collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the automotive market was shaken as enterprises simply were not competitive in terms of both quality and price. Today, companies like HCT, are different from their earlier counterparts in that they concentrate on a diversified product offering and have set up facilities in low-cost countries.

Automotive Industries spoke to Alvis Lecis, director, HCT Automotive.

AI: Why did HCT set up its manufacturing base in China?

When we came up with an idea to make our own products, we did a lot of calculation of the costs to make, for example, a two post lift. We got to a point that we can not manufacture such high standard lift here in Latvia and furthermore to be competitive player with price in the market, so we had to look for other opportunities in other countries. We spent some time searching and testing many products from different factories in China before we began the cooperation with our partner. At the moment we have stable production lines in a completely new factory, which just opened this year in March. The same thing is also with other equipments we are dealing.

AI: Which are your main markets?

At the moment our main market is whole Europe including United Kingdom and Germany, we do also a lot of sales to Middle East countries and of course the Baltic States. We are also looking for many more markets all across the World. Our main object in this fair is to find some good contacts from African countries and perhaps other French speaking countries.

AI: What are some of the new products HCT Automotive will be showcasing at this year’s Equip Auto show?

This time we are exhibiting the latest development of the HCT2.5AL30 our base-plate two post lift, which is number one sales item among our products. This model has the completely new design power unit, which is smaller, lighter, with better performance and reliability. There is a new design of chain protection system, that is improved safety system and it also makes the look tidier.

We are also showing the new wheel balancer HCTB35 with LCD screen. This model is completely new and it was launched only this year in the market.
You can also see the latest design of HCTM24XLA our automatic tire changer with the support for low profile tires.

And there are also some more items which have gained a big popularity in our sales range, the tool carts and oil changing equipment.

AI: How do shows like Equip Auto help HCT – i.e., do they help increase market-share in existing markets or do they open up new markets?

Our main object for the shows like Equip Auto is to find new markets and new partners worldwide. I can tell honestly that most of the clients we have, we have found them in the shows like these. It is a pleasure to meet some customers from previous fairs and this is also a very great opportunity to us, because then we don’t need to travel to all the countries separately.

AI: Does HCT Automotive have plans to open any new manufacturing facilities soon?

At the moment we are not looking to build a new factory, as we are have established very trustful cooperation with our partners in China. But if we find a good idea or some interesting and competitive offer we would consider that as an addition to our product range. We are always open for new opportunities and we never say never.

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