The transformation of the automotive aftermarket is in full swing: alternative drive concepts, digitalization, connected cars and autonomous driving, in addition to changing customer expectations. These are just some of the huge challenges faced by market participants. With its products and individual service concepts, ZF Aftermarket says it has established a successful position as both architect and pacemaker for tomorrow’s mobility, and as a reliable and competent partner for customers.
With “see. think. act.” as its guiding principle, ZF says it has worked to secure a strong global position by mastering the interaction of sensors, control units and vehicle motion control. The aftermarket division of the automotive supplier is heavily involved in developing tomorrow’s mobility and from this derives the appropriate agenda for the future of the aftermarket.
Realizing The Opportunities Offered By Digitalization
Helmut Ernst, head of the ZF Aftermarket Division, explained how the opportunities offered by digitalization can be realized: “On one hand, it requires a readiness to question familiar business models, identify the potential of vehicle and user data, derive attractive business opportunities and implement them. On the other hand, market participants have to align even more strongly with customer expectations by offering more individualized mobility services. Here, comprehensive understanding of the systems and technical know-how remains the most important foundation.”
With tailor-made solutions for the aftersales market and with its established product brands ZF, Lemförder, Sachs and TRW, ZF Aftermarket says it is well-positioned. At Automechanika Frankfurt, a particular product highlight will be Electric Blue, the new range of TRW-branded brake pads for electric vehicles. These drastically reduce both interior noises and particulate emissions when braking, according to the company.
Tailor-Made Product And Service Portfolios
“We will see an increase in electrically powered vehicles and transportation systems that are highly automated or even driving autonomously, especially in urban environments. By 2030, ZF expects around 30 percent of global automotive production to be focused on all-electric or hybrid electric vehicles,” said Markus Wittig, head of the Independent Aftermarket Business Unit (IAM). “As a manufacturer of the accompanying products in OE quality, we have first-hand knowledge. We therefore designed a high-voltage training concept at an early stage, which has become a bestseller in our comprehensive training program portfolio.”
The training aims to give workshop employees the necessary key competencies to master the complex range of topics surrounding future technology. ZF Aftermarket’s modular blended learning concept pushes for success while reducing attendance time and lowering costs.
However, the business says it understands that traditional aftersales service demands per vehicle will decrease in the long term: Fully electric vehicles do not require toothed belt or oil filter changes, for example. But before this happens, the increase in hybrid electric vehicles will lead to an increase in service business due to the double drive system which utilizes a conventional as well as an electric driveline, says ZF.
Data-based services will be major sales generators in the future. The networked workshop of the future knows the status of its customers’ vehicles and recommends preventive maintenance or repair to the owner based on current vehicle data. In the case of a breakdown, the service staff can even provide remote diagnoses. This helps to make operational processes significantly more efficient, and customers will get their vehicles back more quickly.
Markus Wittig describes changing customer expectations: “Digital Natives accept recommendations from their car on preventive maintenance and repairs. They expect their workshops to be on the ball at all times, to act quickly and to offer the best service at a reasonable price. Comparing prices and services online is just as natural to them as purchasing online. If their workshop of choice adapts to that and develops specific digital service offers or mobility services such as car sharing, it will not only gain a good digital reputation but also see real business profitability.”
Intelligent Networking Of Fleets And Workshops
Smart networking of individual systems via telematics is a key element in the rapid process of digitalization. Particularly when it comes to steering fleets, ZF’s connectivity solution Openmatics has tangible benefits, as it is based on a smart and open connectivity platform and works independently from the vehicle manufacturers. An OBD dongle collects and transfers the data: This telematics and diagnostic unit reads 74 specific signals straight from the vehicle’s OBD interface, among them fuel level, braking response and error messages. In addition, the dongles transfer GPS data and the sudden onset of changes in velocity. As Openmatics not only registers but also interprets this data, the platform significantly contributes to driving safety and the optimal steering of fleets.
“Openmatics allows workshops to offer their fleet customers a variety of products and services. To put it simply, Openmatics has set new telematics standards on the independent aftermarket,” said Ernst.
Furthermore, ZF Aftermarket was involved in establishing a neutral digital marketplace for vehicle data across various companies; thus ensuring that unrestricted access to vehicle data is guaranteed for the IAM. In this digital market place, further services can be purchased from a steadily expanding catalog.