Today, aftermarketNews sits down with Jon Douglas, general manager of MAHLE Aftermarket. In this interview, Douglas brings us up to speed on recent changes taking place at MAHLE Aftermarket, including the introduction of the MAHLE Original brand.
In late June/early July, Dana announced that it would begin selling original equipment (OE) gaskets and sealing products, under the Victor Reinz brand name, directly to aftermarket customers in North America, effective Nov. 1. MAHLE Aftermarket held the distribution rights for these gaskets for the past decade. With this change, MAHLE Aftermarket announced the launch of the MAHLE Original brand. Tell us about this change and what has transpired since the announcement in July.
Given the fact that we have been responsible for these gaskets for the last 10 years and beyond, there has not been as much activity as you might think. For us, this project is simply a transfer of brand name and packaging, where everything stays the same. All of the intellectual property, from cataloging and data management attributes, images of the parts, UPC codes, part numbers, gasket set contents and the infrastructure for packaging gaskets in place in our MAHLE facilities, remains unchanged.
Based on our current distribution, starting Nov. 1, MAHLE Original immediately becomes the No. 2 gasket brand in the independent aftermarket. While we certainly had a long list of things to accomplish, brought on by a brand change of this magnitude, our foundation was already strong and enabled us to make this transition as seamless as possible … Well as seamless as you can expect a complex offering like our 9,000 SKU gasket line could be.
Since the announcement was made in early summer, MAHLE Original gaskets began shipping in Mexico across the full line, and across the rest of North America for heavy-duty applications. As one of the industry’s top gasket suppliers, we have a very strong infrastructure in place from product management to sales and marketing support. MAHLE customers have come to rely on our high-quality product and service level. As we have communicated to our customers, the only way to guarantee the same level of product, service and support is to order gaskets from MAHLE Aftermarket.
Our greatest challenge continues to be helping customers understand that we are not new to the gasket world we have been the stewards of a leading brand, and we are the ones that developed that brand into what it is today … All of which will continue in the MAHLE Original brand and packaging.
Your announcement about the new brand stated you expected to have this transition complete by March of 2017. Where does the process stand today – are you on-target?
We are well ahead of that target actually. As I mentioned in the last question, when you have a product line of 9,000 part numbers – ranging in size from big head gasket sets, to little water outlet gaskets – there can be a challenge to transition all of these different packaging platforms in a timely fashion. Fortunately, we have one of the best teams in the industry to run our master distribution facility in Olive Branch, Mississippi – and they have been in front of this issue since our direction became clear last year.
While there may indeed be some stragglers that still show up to customers in the Victor Reinz packaging up until March of next year, this will be the rare exception. Should this occur, it will only happen in the interest of serving our customers the best way possible by providing them with the products they need. Distributors and technicians alike can take comfort in knowing that, from our perspective, a sealing product ordered from MAHLE Aftermarket will be the finest quality in design and manufacturing – no other gasket supplier can say that.
What kind of feedback are you getting on the MAHLE Original brand thus far? What are some of the biggest questions you are hearing in the marketplace as a result of these changes?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Whether it be from customers who we are meeting with to communicate the transition, to those customers across Mexico and heavy-duty customers in the U.S. and Canada who are already receiving MAHLE Original gaskets, the initial feedback has been great!
I’ve been a MAHLE guy for nearly 25 years, and to think of how far the recognition of the MAHLE name has come in the last 10 years is a testament to the people we have within MAHLE Aftermarket. Also, it is a credit to the quality of the products we sell. Beginning in 2007 after acquiring Dana’s engine parts business during a time when Dana was in Chapter 11, MAHLE assumed exclusive rights to the Victor Reinz brand in North America, and continued growing this brand. Dana had recently divested several of its aftermarket companies including Weatherhead, WIX, Brake Parts Inc. and Echlin. MAHLE’s significant dedication and commitment to its products and customers has allowed MAHLE to develop the strong reputation it has today.
The effort and dedication of our team, along with the strength and stability of a top 30 global automotive supplier like MAHLE, has put us in a position to make this transition now. Every MAHLE Original package, regardless of product, carries a few simple words that define a philosophy: Quality guaranteed by MAHLE. More than a catchphrase, it is the assurance that every technician using MAHLE components is staking their reputation on the very best.
What else is new with MAHLE Aftermarket as of late? Can you please give us an update on other products, projects or initiatives that are going on?
The introduction of MAHLE Original gaskets, while a focal point for us throughout 2016, is not the only initiative for MAHLE Aftermarket. Technology presents new opportunities across the entire industry, and we are committed to being on the cutting edge.
We have made significant investments in people and technology to bring our category and data management capabilities to the forefront of the aftermarket. We always knew, based on our SKU counts, that we had the best coverage of any of our competitors. By utilizing new industry tools, our team was able to change the mapping of some of our existing part numbers to increase our coverage by hundreds, even thousands of applications.
Combine this with the platforms we already had in place, like inventory modeling for example, and we are able to support our mission of listening to our channel partners to understand their needs as business partners so they can supply the best in parts, repair and service.
Speaking of service, the service providers and technicians are the true lifeblood of the industry, and the most valuable step in the distribution chain. We continue to invest substantial resources in our Service Solutions division in order to provide the very best in tools and equipment to make them more efficient.
What’s new with the MAHLE Service Solutions division?
The Service Solutions division continues expansion in an effort to become the leading tool and equipment supplier for shops and technicians. When we introduced the TechPRO diagnostic scan tool, we made the point that diagnostics were not new to MAHLE; in fact, we have supplied end of line testing on the OE side for more than 25 years. This expertise enabled us to bring a revolutionary tool to help technicians do their job better and more efficiently.
Under the leadership of Andreas Huber, general manager for MAHLE Service Solutions, we experienced exponential growth in the OE service side of our business. Now we are backing that success up even more by bringing the MAHLE Test Systems division into the MAHLE Service Solutions family. Doing this enables our OE and aftermarket software engineers to work side by side in order to design and build the finest tools for channel partners across both sides of the business.
This cooperative effort will lead to the evolution of TechPRO from simply a diagnostic scan tool to the basis of a platform that will bring about a full line of SMART equipment that has the ability to take A/C recharge and fluid exchange capabilities to a level that none of our competitors have.
In addition to the SMART equipment, the OE competence in the aftermarket puts MAHLE in a unique position to retain a leadership position during this advent of telematics. While the future of telematics has a degree of uncertainty, MAHLE Aftermarket is best suited to keeping our customers’ best interests in mind, as well as taking part in decisions made in Washington that directly affect the future of the aftermarket.
This is an exciting time for our industry, and the entire team at MAHLE Aftermarket is committed to proactively and innovatively supporting the success and sustainability of our business partners.