Today, we’re chatting with Mike Palm, vice president of marketing and brand management at CRP Industries Inc. He brings us up to date on the company’s new systems-based approach, OE quality, innovation and more.
Many suppliers are taking a systems approach with the product lines they offer today. Tell us about CRP Automotive’s new Master Cooling Program and how the company developed the concept.
Our new Master Cooling Program is the result of a systems expertise that we have been developing over time. Our original belts and hose business has always been very strong, but in recent years, we expanded on it to keep pace with the increasing sophistication of modern automotive cooling systems. The coolant hoses used in these systems are very complex. Instead of simple hose and clamp connections, the systems now require vehicle-specific hose assemblies that incorporate precise routing configurations, integrated thermoplastic couplings, temp sensors and multiple branch connections. As we developed our capabilities to handle these complex hoses, we also touched on other components in the cooling system, such as water pumps and thermostats, and have expanded our proficiency there as well.
Based on market feedback from professional repair technicians, we launched a new master cooling system program under our Rein Automotive brand. The program is built around a comprehensive line of OE-quality replacement parts that have been developed to solve a variety of cooling system service issues.
We now offer wide European coverage for coolant hoses, water pumps and kits, coolant expansion tanks and kits, thermostats and thermostat assemblies, reservoir caps and various sensors. From a technical point of view, understanding the dynamics of the entire system helps us ensure product quality and system expertise.
Talk to us about importance of “OE quality” in aftermarket products today.
Time and time again we’ve heard professional repair technicians exclaim that they want to do the job right, the first time. They expect the parts they use to perform at the highest reliability level. If there is any concern over the quality of a part, you can be assured the repair technician won’t take the risk.
As a result, our customers expect us to provide a product that works as well or better than the original. We’ve been doing this for a long time and have built trust with our customers. They expect CRP Automotive brands to perform at the same level as the OE, whether it is a ContiTech Pro Series timing belt kit, a Pentosin double-clutch transmission filter change kit or a Rein BMW coolant hose with the OE temp sensor pre-mounted in the assembly.
Do you plan to expand the Master Program concept to any other product lines?
Cooling is just a start for CRP and other master programs are on the horizon. We already have extensive knowledge in the steering category where we can leverage our AAE, Rein Automotive and Pentosin brands. Focusing on imports, we will offer a wide range of components including gear boxes, hoses, hydraulic fluids, suspension components, new and remanufactured hydraulic and electric power steering racks and pumps. Our first phase of this development is to offer Asian power steering hoses in the first quarter of 2017.
Innovation is not just a buzzword – it’s an expectation in today’s fast-paced and competitive market. I understand CRP Automotive has developed an Innovation Council to foster development of new ideas. Tell us about this.
The primary purpose of our Innovation Council is to create a direct connection with professional repair technicians that allows us to learn more about them and helps us to identify and capitalize on emerging trends or needs in the market.
The council is made up of a select group of professional automotive technicians, hand-picked on the basis of experience, expertise, reputation and geographic diversity. The insight that we gain from this group is invaluable to us and drives a significant amount of our product development.
We have already reaped the benefits from our Innovation Council in the form of two first-to-market products that were spawned by the feedback from technicians on our council. The first is our Rein Automotive Audi VW Water Pump Kit, which was designed to troubleshoot a premature failure issue on many 2.0 engines. We also received the “Best Problem Solver” award from the Import Vehicle Community for the kit during the recent AAPEX show in Las Vegas. The other is an innovative BMW hose replacement that can reduce what was typically a 10 to 12 hour job down to just about 3.5 to 4 hours.
Last year, CRP acquired Atlantic Automotive Engineering (AAE), which added a new product segment to the company’s portfolio. How has the company been integrated into CRP – is it acting as a stand-alone company or has it been merged within the CRP family of brands?
AAE is being merged into CRP Automotive as a brand. We are building on their tremendous knowledge and understanding of steering systems and adding to it our ability to scale and our reach throughout the NAFTA market. The Tabor City, North Carolina, manufacturing site is an important part of our future and has seen significant investments in physical plant, personnel, lean processes and inventory.
We are very excited about various positive changes occurring with our AAE program. As part of our effort to differentiate, we will be adding many new power steering racks where core availability is typically limited or problematic. Updates to our sales policy regarding minimum order quantities will support customers who wish to order more frequently with smaller lots. And we’ve rolled out 15 EPS remanufactured racks this year. We continue to work on ways to make it easier for our customers to do business with us.
One question we’ve been asking a lot lately is: what keeps you up at night when thinking about the future of the automotive aftermarket? What concerns you and what excites you?
The technology changes occurring in today’s vehicles both scare and excite me. As the OEMs continue to apply more technology and add technical advancements, I worry that the aftermarket will be even more challenged to participate in this business. For example, when I look at the new Rein Automotive VW water pump kit we offer, it is a fully integrated water pump and thermostat housing with temp sensor made from both metal and thermoplastic. This is not the simple thermostat or water pump of the past. It is a highly engineered product. We are seeing this type of technology advancement across all product categories today.
What excites me is the ability of the aftermarket to continue to innovate and find ways to support the market’s needs. As we move towards autonomous vehicles and more and more electronics in cars, we need to adapt. The fact is this change creates tremendous opportunities for those companies that invest in building the skills and capabilities to thrive in the new era.