In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with executives of Federal Mogul about their wiper blade aftermarket business.
How do you encourage motorists to replace their blades as often as they should?
It’s very difficult. As with most components, it tends to have to be picked-up by the installer at the time of the car’s annual test.
Do you have wiper blade wear indicators?
We’ve worked with wear indicators but the problem with wear indicators is that they don’t actually tell you when the blade’s worn out. Instead, they tell you when it’s been exposed to a certain amount of UV and might be worn out. So it’s a reminder rather than a wear indicator.
Do you find people take any notice of those reminders?
I think some people do but by the time they’ve bought a blade and had it on their car for two years then they have probably forgotten what the little spot is for anyway.
Are the British any better at replacing their blades than the French or Germans?
The French market is very buoyant in terms of wipers. The French are very retail oriented so you’ve got the large hypermarkets and big chains that are constantly pushing these products to the motorist. UK retailers are a bit more reticent whereas in Germany, checking the wipers is part of the annual service so it is done automatically.
Are wiper blades still awkward to replace?
If you’re looking at the wiper hook arm connections, sometimes they can be very fiddly, especially when you can’t lift the blade right off the windscreen. But generally the flat blades are relatively easy to fit. The connection is a clip with arrow indicators showing the way in which it should be connected. Once connected, it’s a relatively simple matter to then attach it to the wiper arm.
I guess flat blades are the dominant type of blade across Europe. In terms of fitment rates, is it approximately 80% OE and 50% aftermarket?
It’s not quite that yet, but it’s going that way. If you look at, say, the top 20 cars sold in Europe, over 90% of them have flat blades fitted at the OE level. Whereas in the early days, flat blades were the preserve of premium segment cars, today you will find them on a Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500. So all mainstream European car manufacturers are fitting flat blades nowadays and they are going into Japanese models, too.
Has anything changed to wiper blades material wise?
We use different coatings such as graphite or double graphite which is used widely so not proprietary. The difference lies in the rubber mix and how it is produced, whether it’s a compressed rubber or extruded rubber. We extrude our rubbers back to back. The wiping edge is actually achieved by splitting the middle of the two extrusions in order to determine a very accurate and clean wiping edge.