ADDISON, Ill. (Sept. 12, 2005) — For every vehicle that pulls into a tire or auto service shop bay for maintenance, it's pretty common knowledge that a fair number escape, their drivers not even aware they might be driving a bucket of parts just waiting to fail.
KYB America L.L.C. is aware, though. Armed with statistics from the Car Care Council that the amount of unperformed vehicle maintenance and repair has grown to more than $60 billion per year, the supplier of shocks and struts has launched an initiative aimed at reducing that problem.
“Ride Control Solutions from KYB” was rolled out last month in Chicago by KYB Senior Vice President Mike Howarth, who called the program “groundbreaking.” It focuses on fostering long-term partnering relationships among KYB, its distributors and auto service center customers.
The new program “offers focused solutions to the specific problems associated with replacing worn ride control products,” Mr. Howarth said. “After all, 86 percent of vehicles arriving at the junk yard still have their original shocks and struts, which really illustrates the need for an initiative to capture the millions of lost sales and lost opportunities.”
Aaron Shaffer, marketing manager for the Addison-based company, told Tire Business “Ride Control Solutions” is not really a technical program but is “much more a business-building program. The fact is, most technicians already know how to put on shocks and struts.” KYB, he continued, wants to help them properly identify worn components by giving them a procedure to follow.
The plan, according to the company, is designed to assist auto service centers in identifying worn ride control units by offering service writers “the tools to effectively and ethically communicate, with their customers, the need for replacement ride control units.”
The key word there is ethically.
No shop wants to be on the receiving end of criticism—or, worse yet, an undercover sting investigation—charging that it might have pushed unneeded parts or service. What KYB is offering is a procedure to follow based on a company checklist that provides a more detailed way to road test a vehicle, Mr. Shaffer said.
“Unlike normal road tests, we've actually de-cided to push the car to its limits to test its ride control functions. So there's a checklist that a shop gets along with a clipboard that outlines vehicle ride control exercises, with all the conditions the car may experience,” he said. “There also are photos on the checklist and the clipboard, as well as a training video that shows how to identify worn-out shocks and struts.
“Technicians are almost falling behind with identifying worn parts, and that's the main cause of that $60 billion in unperformed maintenance. That's what this program is designed to combat.”
KYB, a unit of Japan's Kayaba Industry Company Ltd., said in a prepared statement that it believes it can effectively combat the increasing problem of unperformed maintenance “by actively de-veloping partnerships with our distributors, creating programs to accurately identify the needs of the service dealer and by increasing our service level in the field.
“It should be the goal of our entire industry to ensure that each motorist achieves the maximum life from their vehicle….”
Mr. Howarth said worn—as opposed to failed—shocks and struts have always been a tricky problem for technicians to identify. That makes it “extremely difficult for service writers to justify the sale to the motorist.”
The company's new program, he claimed, is “the solution to this age-old problem and will help service centers provide their customers with better maintained, safer and longer lasting vehicles.”
William “Mac” McGovern, KYB's director of training, said the foundation of the company's new program is based on “the fundamentals of accurately determining the needs of the technician to identify and communicate the condition of worn parts along with an industry-supported method.”
He noted that the industry's annual “Be Car Care Aware” campaign has “alerted our industry to the problem” of neglected regular vehicle maintenance and “earned our attention.” KYB's initiative—which it's also referring to as “Get to the Tech”—is “designed to motivate and help our industry create the solutions to solve the problem of unperformed services and improve the aftermarket,” Mr. McGovern added.
Based on an Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association figure of 167,000 auto service providers in the U.S., KYB said “that calculates out to be approximately $6,900 per service provider, per week, or on average over $700 per day, per technician. Lost sales and lost opportunities have an impact on all of us.”
The company said traditional point-of-sale and marketing efforts in shops are not increasing sales of shocks and struts. Why? KYB claims the sale isn't occurring because it's not offered—or the shop is “not prepared for the sale.”
The result has created “reactive rather than pro-active service centers. Today they react to the customers' immediate concerns and are only proficient at identifying 'failed' parts,” the company said.
Other ride control manufacturers “have not been successful in offering a workable solution to unperformed maintenance and have begun diversifying their product lines to in-clude products that are much more easily identified to need replacing,” the company claims on its Web site. “At KYB, we view unperformed maintenance as a fantastic opportunity for our distributors and service centers.”
Right now the company is focusing primarily on shops that are “seriously involved with ride control,” according to Mr. Shaffer. “We're targeting shops that will benefit the most.”
That does not mean service shops that “maybe do one set of shocks or struts a month and don't have a strut spring compressor,” he added. “We're concentrating on the good tire shops, for example, that are already doing some shock and strut business.
“We've found the program is more effective when we implement it with people who are already selling some. We can't turn a transmission shop into a ride control center.”
The program has been set up for service writers and technicians through KYB distributors that can provide training either at their distributorship or at a service shop.
KYB claims it is the world's largest original equipment supplier of shocks and struts—with a global market share of 26 percent—and a 15-percent share of the aftermarket (21 percent in Europe and 13 percent in North America). Parent company Kayaba Industry is Japan's largest hydraulics manufacturer, with net sales of $2.2 billion in 2004 and net income of $57 million.