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Schaeffler on the Automotive Aftermarket

Automotive Industries spoke to Michael Soeding, Vice President Sales and Marketing in the Schaeffler Group Automotive Business Unit Aftermarket.
Schaeffler on the Automotive Aftermarket

The Schaeffler Group Automotive Aftermarket is the Automotive Aftermarket Business Unit of the Schaeffler Group. Headquartered in Germany, the company sells Schaeffler aftermarket products under the brand names of LuK, INA and FAG. The company has a global network of 1,800 direct distribution partners and 7,000 wholesale partnerships.

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 (CVT) technology is different from the normal gear-shift procedure in that a chain passes over two conical pulleys and the distance between these can be adjusted using hydraulic control. This means that there is a variable in the chain run radius that influences the transmission between engine and drive wheels.

The aftermarket business unit in the Schaeffler Group will be exhibiting its products in Equip Auto 2007. Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to Michael Soeding, Vice President Sales and Marketing in the Schaeffler Group Automotive Business Unit Aftermarket.

AI: How popular has your RepXpert portal been?
Soeding: RepXpert is an internationally oriented, Internet based knowledge portal that was launched 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 over 29,000 registered users.

AI: Tell us about your company’s work on TecDoc and what it has meant for the aftermarket service providers.
Soeding: 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 to make 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, and 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 also include 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?
Soeding: We will keep the focus on “Products and Services” offered by 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 up 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?
Soeding: Compared to the total vehicle stock, the share of vehicles with hybrid power trains is relatively small. To date, only approximately 0.5 per cent of new vehicles sold in Europe have a hybrid power train, while in the US they have a. 1.5 per cent 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 per cent 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?
Soeding: We will expand the 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 or between full lift and zero lift 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 have received 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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