Federal-Mogul Motorparts on the consumer appeal and aftermarket coverage of Champion wiper blades – Q&A

By Matthew Beecham | 6 June 2016

Jerry Banks

Jerry Banks

In theory, the wiper blade is a service replacement item. In reality, some of us prolong the moment until the squeaks and juddering of a worn out wiper blade force a pit stop. It has been suggested that the European wiper blade aftermarket could double if motorists appreciated what a safety-critical component it is. While some believe that wiper blade manufacturers have a way to go to change consumer habits and achieve market growth, Champion reports that its latest marketing efforts have shown "great promise for future growth." Continuing just-auto's series of interviews with tier one suppliers, Matthew Beecham spoke to Jerry Banks, Federal-Mogul Motorparts senior product manager, wipers about trends in the automotive wiper blade aftermarket.

How is your European aftermarket business shaping-up this year?

Customers are now well educated as to the importance of seasonal preparation of their vehicles and preventative maintenance, so the unusually mild winter weather has had little negative impact on our business. We have been working with customers on focusing their retail and online sales presence and this is showing great promise for future growth.

How do you engage with your customers in this digital age?

It has been our aim to not only direct customers towards online resources, but to provide a source of trusted information from a knowledgeable, proven supplier to the automotive industry: Federal-Mogul Motorparts.

We provide a full online catalogue that includes detailed fitting instructions and helpful video guidance to provide customers with the information to make an informed choice, and to also ensure that fitting is carried out easily and securely.

All Champion wiper packaging includes a QR code that provides fast, easy and accurate access to this information and helpful guides. The aim is to ease the decision making and fitting processes.

The European aftermarket is flooded with non-branded low quality wiper blades. How do you set about getting your message across to the garage / technician and consumer on the merits of Federal-Mogul Motorparts' products?

The OE quality of Champion wipers is demonstrated by fulfilling the role of principle supplier to a variety of European vehicle manufacturers. Our aftermarket products are made in the same factories as our OE product and benefit from the same quality, precision and R&D, ensuring that any customer buying an aftermarket Champion wiper is experiencing the highest level of OE quality. Federal-Mogul Motorparts has extensive R&D and testing facilities in Belgium. This allows us to have close control of European range development and guarantees future product quality.

To complement our extensive marketing and support activities that are designed to better educate the market as to the advantages of OE quality components, Champion wipers are physically differentiated by high-tech, anti-counterfeiting marking on all packaging. This guarantees that aftermarket components adhere to the same thorough production and testing standards as OE-fit wipers. 

In what ways do you expect to increase your wiper blade aftermarket share in Europe?

Federal-Mogul Motorparts is providing a solution to European customers' needs and its physical capacity continues to grow. Its R&D facility is located in Aubange, Belgium, a new wiper factory recently opened in Ploiesti, Romania and a new distribution centre in Willebroek, Belgium, will be operational in the near future. The Romanian production site, which opened in December 2015, significantly increases our European production capacity for both OE and aftermarket components. A continual development of our wiper programme ensures that Champion products monitor and keep pace with OE technology developments and that the aftermarket can also benefit, reducing the time to market for new applications.

We also focus on ensuring the quality of support grows in line with market share and production intensification: ensuring our catalogue data is correct and thorough, for example, to help maintain our 98%+ European market coverage. R&D support is centrally located in Europe, and we have also implemented customer loyalty programmes such as F-M For Me, which helps workshops increase sales by working with them closely to develop bespoke support packages.

In terms of new product launches, we have developed a second-generation flat blade that has been designed to meet specific aftermarket needs, which is currently undergoing a validation process and will go into production at the end of the year. This represents a substantial investment for Federal-Mogul Motorparts, due to the requirement for new state of the art production methods, and clearly demonstrates our commitment to the future growth of the Champion aftermarket brand.

Rear wiper blades appear to have reached "designer" status these days. In what ways does that impact your business in terms of the aftermarket?

The almost bespoke nature of rear wiper arm/blade combinations presents the aftermarket with obvious challenges, not least of which is the low volume demand across a wide number of model-specific designs. High tooling costs and the return on investment, for example, provide a financial challenge. However, we remain committed to delivering extensive coverage for the aftermarket and so we actively invest in developing new products and solutions – of course, where we develop new OE applications these advancements are represented in Champion's aftermarket range wherever possible.

Over the past decade or so, Federal-Mogul Motorparts and other wiper manufacturers have tried to make blades easier to fit.  Have you sold more blades to the DIYer as a result?

In short, yes. Packaging that features QR code navigation to helpful installation videos and instructions has promoted at-home fitment of replacement wipers. Instructions on the packaging itself provides a detailed, step-by-step how-to guide, and replacement-friendly connection systems help make the job of fitting all wiper types, including flat blades, as simple and intuitive as possible.

With the development of the Easyvision range with its multiclip connector and QR product finder on all products we are offering valuable solutions for the retail aftermarket.

How do your marketing initiatives and the way you approach the market differ for commercial vehicles?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's Global light vehicle OE wipers market - forecasts to 2030