Will the European spare parts market become Americanised? Are trade groups only bonus offers for the distributors? What is the biggest challenge for the aftermarket recently? We talk about such and other issues with Roland Dilmetz, ATR President.
There was a lot happening in the ATR structures recently. How have these changes influenced the ATR purchasing power by the end of 2016?
According to the current forecasts of our shareholders 2016 was a successful year for ATR. Our members increased their external sales turnover by 26 % in total in comparison to the previous year. This figure includes new members which joined ATR in 2016, but about half of this growth was created by the existing members.
In recent years we could observe progressing consolidation and increased interest in the European market by the overseas players…
That’s correct. I personally think that the last years have been just the beginning of substantial changes in the European IAM. In a few years we will see even bigger companies than today active on many markets and generating an annual sales turnover of 5 bn. Euro or even more. You may call it the “Americanisation”.
Do you think big overseas companies will find their place in the European reality?
In my opinion it is not only a question of size. It will be essential whether and how these huge companies will understand, respect and handle the regional different needs of the customers in a fragmented European market. There is no “Pan-European-Approach” which fits the interests of more than 30.000 companies trading in vehicle parts. Therefore the SMEs will always play a decisive role in the European IAM – but they have to face the challenges and prepare themselves for a much tougher future.
Speaking of challenges, what’s the biggest one for the IAM nowadays?
Last year the European automotive aftermarket was dominated by the discussion about how to build up an open telematics platform to keep equal chances for all stakeholders in the aftermarket to make their business. I think this is the biggest challenge for now. Time is running fast. Therefore it’s high time to find a fair solution for this essential problem.
Let’s come back to the main topic of our conversation, that is to the activity of trade groups. How is ATR different from other organisations?
I believe that it might be that we have a special “culture” in ATR. Core values like responsibility, trust, loyalty and diversity matter a lot to us. It is important to know that all ATR members have the same rights and obligations – independent from their seize. It does not matter whether they make 15 Mio. or 8 Bn. Euro turnover, whether they have some dozens or thousands of employees. Since our foundation we have the principal “One man, one vote”. Therefore we check and select very carefully whether a potential new ATR member would fit into the “family”.
How does this selection look like? Does ATR admit only market leaders?
It is not true that only market leaders can become ATR partners. The candidates should have the potential to be or get among the top companies of their market. Often we have to be the business catalysts in a market. We have this challenge currently especially in the developing emerging markets where in some cases we support the companies coming from the “OES world” to the “IAM world”. Companies like InterCars, ForumAvto, ARMTEK, Autonet, ECP, Tokic and many others were relatively small when they joined ATR. The key factor to find the right companies are the people. Persons with clear visions, strategies, motivation, team spirit, will and enthusiasm.
So this means that you do not struggle to find new partners at any cost?
We are always looking for new ATR members worldwide fitting to the criteria mentioned above, especially in those promising markets where we are not yet present. Like always we will do it “step by step”. From my point of view it does not make sense just to “hunt” new members at any price. It must be ensured that the new member gets an excellent service from us when it comes to the integration in the ATR structure without deteriorating the business activities for the existing shareholders. The development of current and potential ATR members is our target. A cooperation only makes sense if it creates a “win-win-situation” for our members, our partners from the industry and if it brings additional jobs.
Spare parts manufacturers are very often of the opinion that achieving better trading conditions for distributors from their suppliers is the only aim of the ITGs. What’s the ITGs’ and distributors’ point of view?
I think this point of view is wrong, but I may only speak for the ATR office. There is a huge variety of activities of our members. Since decades we are more than a mere “buying group”. Of course the negotiations on our 119 international agreements with our suppliers play a very important role in our daily business in Stuttgart, but we also deal with many other issues.
We promote the exchange of experiences and information between group members. We support our members concerning car data and electronic catalogues via our international valid contracts with TecAlliance and DVSE/TOPMOTIVE. Every year more than 15.000 participants extend their knowledge in our “ATR Akademie”. We are the central ATR contact for market research institutes, the press and authorities. Of course, we support top market automotive associations like FIGIEFA, GVA, CLEPA and Partslife.
We know that 2017 will be special for ATR…
That’s true. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary themed ”50 years. Today, Tomorrow. Together.” with all our suppliers and shareholders in Berlin in June 2017. In November 2017 we will also have our 7th IPAS Forum with our International Preferred ATR Suppliers (IPAS).