Finding Opportunities In Alternative Powertrain Technologies

Finding Opportunities In Alternative Powertrains

MAHLE pledges leadership to shops embracing future technology.

Many shops may feel a sense of uncertainty servicing hybrids, electric vehicles and alternative powertrains being released on the market today. But MAHLE is urging shops to think of this new wave as an opportunity – one that will reap benefits for those who partner with a 100-year-old provider of automotive solutions in the industry.

“The work carried out in workshops will change dramatically in view of the increasing diversification of the vehicle fleet,” said Olaf Henning, corporate executive vice president and general manager, MAHLE Aftermarket. “If independent workshops decide to embrace this transformation, we’re the right partner to have by their side.”

With an eye on the aftermarket of the future, MAHLE showcased its efforts in providing shop solutions for these new technologies in a webinar the company hosted in late July. The German parts manufacturer is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and while honoring its past, it outlined automotive trends on its radar for the future and how it plans to be a solutions provider for shops across the globe.

Henning said MAHLE has been able to develop solutions for shops by studying trends from its OEM business, expanding its distribution footprint and anticipating ongoing market trends to adapt its product portfolio. 

“This path has taken us from being a pure spare parts supplier to a solutions provider,” Henning said. “With these solutions, we enable our customers to tap into new business segments in the aftermarket of tomorrow.”

Key trends on MAHLE’s radar include the growth of thermal management due to the increasing number of electric and hybrid vehicles; the growth of spare parts that comes with various drivetrains on the market; and new hygiene practices for cleaning vehicle cabins. Henning also highlighted the increase in automatic transmissions, the integration of functions into one part and the complexity of filtration systems as new challenges that can be transformed into business opportunities for shops. 

Jürgen Laucher, head of aftermarket thermal management, said due to the way hybrid, electric and fuel-cell powertrains are constructed, the vehicle’s power electronics will need to be cooled, leading the way for an increase in thermal management service needs. 

While MAHLE already offers an array of air conditioning and engine cooling parts, he said with the acquisition of Behr Hella Services in 2018, MAHLE customers can now get their thermal management spare parts from a single source. 

“Thermal management is the new service business for workshops in the diversified mobility of tomorrow,” he said. “We’re therefore strengthening this important future segment related to temperature control. We’re constantly developing our portfolio and incorporating our expertise in the areas of thermal management and filtration into new products. This provides our customers the tools and know-how they need to operate profitably in the aftermarket of tomorrow.”

Service opportunities around filtration also will become more important as fuel-cell electric vehicles rise in popularity. Jens Knorn, director of global product management, said as more fuel-cell electric vehicles come to the market, there will be a greater demand for air management to prevent damage to the cell.

MAHLE has responded to this by developing high-performance filters specifically for vehicles with fuel-cell drive, Knorn said. It also has more than 300 filters dedicated to electric vehicles, and recently, it introduced its new CleanLine and CleanLine+ filters, which the company says are designed to increase fuel quality. 

“In the medium term, we anticipate significant service volumes for workshops in this area [filtration],” Knorn said. “These activities will be based on our high-performance filters, which prevent degeneration of the fuel cell and minimize the number of expensive catalytic converters needed.”

As the complexity of vehicles increases, so does the demand for intelligent shop equipment that performs diagnostics, updates automatically and has vehicle data from the manufacturer. Joachim Schneeweiss, head of service solutions, said the company has responded to this need with its ADAS, air conditioning and oil service units on the market. As an example, he touted MAHLE’s TechPro diagnostic tool, which features a secure gateway into Fiat Chrysler data for shops to diagnose the company’s vehicle’s properly. 

Other trends MAHLE highlighted were the growth of automatic transmissions and the integration of functions into one part. Knorn said the production of automatic transmissions has grown by 40% worldwide in the past five years, which will present money-making service opportunities for shops. To demonstrate the integration of functions into one part, he used MAHLE’s oil management module as an example. This part combines a pump, cooler and filtration element all in one with a replaceable filter insert for ease of repair. However, the company is monitoring what shops may need to service these types of parts to respond to industry demand.  

With the predicted growth of these technologies, training will be an essential for shops to keep up with the “aftermarket of the future,” as MAHLE puts it. Henning said the company is constantly developing its training programs in these areas, whether it be through workshops or a video on a service unit. He said shops also can access training opportunities through MAHLE’s Technical Messenger or Customer Care Portal. 

Business Update  

Employee and customer safety have been at the core of MAHLE’s global response to COVID-19, said Henning.

Henning said MAHLE responded quickly to the pandemic to protect its workforce, and as a result, the company has been able to keep the infection rate low at MAHLE locations worldwide. He also said maintaining focus on supply chain has been paramount during this crisis. 

“The pandemic has presented us with some enormous challenges as a company. In addition to protecting the health of our employees, we also focused on maintaining our supply capacity in every phase — with success,” Henning said. “We were able to sustain our supply chains in the OEM segment, as well as ensuring full supply capacity in the aftermarket at all times.”

With greater financial strain on shops worldwide due to the pandemic, Henning said many of MAHLE’s customers have benefited from its “Startklar” campaign. Through this, shops can purchase service equipment through MAHLE Service Solutions and pay for it in installments starting the seventh month after purchase.

Looking back on 2019, Henning said the company was confronted with many challenges and uncertainties, including the slowdown in the automotive markets and the economy, Brexit, geopolitical unpredictability and the mobility transformation. Despite these challenges, MAHLE Aftermarket’s sales increased from $1.077 billion (EUR 928 million) in 2018 to around $1.103 billion (EUR 950 million) in 2019. 

Henning said the company also opened new locations. In June 2020, it opened a new production and development center in Parma, which will be the home of MAHLE Aftermarket’s Italy team as well as the new worldwide headquarters for MAHLE Service Solutions. In addition, the company opened a new sales office in Panama City, Panama, to better serve customers in South America.

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