TPMS is the future, says Autogem
In order to prosper in today's competitive market, a company needs to be able to identify trends and wholeheartedly embrace new opportunities. A good example of this is Autogem, which used to be a market leader in the supply of exhaust fittings and workshop consumables, but which is now regarded as an authority on tyre pressure monitoring systems.
While it is true that all run-flat tyres must have some form of TPMS, the number is still comparatively small. However, says Prashant Chopra, managing partner at Autogem, this will all change, as from November 2012, a European Directive states that all new category M1 vehicles will have to be fitted with TPMS.
Whereas in the USA the introduction of mandatory TPMS was driven by safety concerns after a series of rollover accidents, in Europe the prime motivation is the environment. Tyres naturally lose air over time (typically around 10 per cent of inflation pressure over a year) and under-inflation leads to increased fuel consumption and premature tyre wear. EU estimates are that, globally, under-inflation means that more than 20 million litres of fuel are burned unnecessarily, adding two million tonnes of CO2 to the environment, and that 200 million tyres wear out prematurely every year. Hence the introduction of TPMS, although of course there will be safety benefits as well as environmental advantages.
Types of TPMS
TPMS can be divided into direct and indirect types. Taking indirect first, this works off the ABS or ESP sensors, comparing wheel speeds against each other. An under-inflated tyre will have a smaller diameter and will have to rotate faster – this is picked up and the driver alerted. One drawback of indirect systems is that they will not give a warning if all four tyres lose pressure equally, so the gradual pressure loss over time will not be picked up.
Direct TPMS use a pressure sensor inside each tyre that wirelessly transmits information on temperature and pressure, and loss of pressure over a given level will trigger an alarm in the driver’s cockpit.
For the tyre dealer or fast-fit, this makes fitting a new tyre a more complicated task, as it is not just a case of fitting a new valve, as with non-TPMS-equipped vehicles; in many instances, the sensor will have its own, unique I.D. code and the fitter will need to know this to reset the TPMS. Just to complicate matters further, there are different types of TPMS sensors in use, plus every vehicle manufacturer has its own method of re-programming the vehicle.
This all sounds horribly complex, but TPMS is already a fact of life (there are two million TPMS-equipped cars in the UK) and, as the EU legislation comes into force, tyre depots will see more and more of these vehicles.
Prashant Chopra believes that, far from being an annoyance, TPMS offers great opportunities for tyre dealers to increase revenue and to enhance their status as experts on all things TPMS-related. It will require investment in diagnostic and fitting tools and in time spent being properly trained, but he says that the potential rewards far outweigh the initial outlay.
In order to maximise this revenue, the tyre dealer needs to be aware of the opportunities and to seek them out. For example, pointing out to the customer than an aluminium valve stem is corroded and that it needs to be replaced.
Many sensors are battery-powered and, like all batteries, they do not last for ever. A tool is available that diagnoses the battery’s condition and shows when it needs to be changed. Even if the diagnosis is that the battery is OK, checking it for the customer will send a message of professionalism.
Every time the tyre is removed, the TPMS sensor should be serviced, with replacement valve core, dust cap or fixing screw, depending on type.
Earlier on we mentioned resetting the TPMS and this is another potential source of revenue. Also, aftermarket TPMS kits are available for retro-fitting and, if you gain a reputation as a TPMS specialist, motorists considering fitting such a system will turn to you first.
Of course, you can have the best set of tools in the world, but if you don’t know how to use them properly, they will be worse than useless. Proper training is vital – and not just in the use of the equipment, but also in what to look for in order to maximise revenue opportunities.
Autogem recognises this and offers comprehensive training for customers. The company places so much emphasis on the subject that its Customer Charter, printed on its promotional leaflets, states that it will not sell TPMS-related products to customers unless they are properly trained.
Prashant Chopra firmly believes that TPMS represents a real opportunity for the tyre dealer to increase revenue and maximise profits and, as the numbers of TPMS-equipped vehicles increase, it is something with which the dealer is going to have to come to terms. For its part, Autogem believes that TPMS is where its future lies and, says Prashant Chopra, the company “has invested a great deal of time, effort and resource ensuring our team has the knowledge base in place to provide the level of training and support required to achieve a quick return on investment for our customers.”