25 years of Supertracker: from cottage industry to 14,000 units
Southampton based alignment equipment supplier, Supertracker is 25 years old this year and Tyres & Accessories visited managing director Trevor Lovesy and alignment specialist, Jerry Barker to celebrate the milestone. Having been established by Lovesy’s parents in 1987 the company has moved from a cottage industry needing to sell 26 units in its first year to a major supplier of alignment equipment to Kwik Fit. It is indicative of the company’s quick progress that 1987 actually saw 87 sales, with the first units manufactured in August.
Lovesy joined his parents in 1989, moving the company into a Southampton unit and feeling limited by agents’ ability to sell in 1990 the company started to operate its own sales team in 1991, reaching sales of “up to 30 per month”. In 1993 amidst a drive in cableless technology Supertracker developed its first laser aligner, which slowly overtook the previous light beam models. Now of course laser beam wheel aligners have been superseded in terms of technology by computerised units. In this time Supertracker has also increased the size of its business unit, with the latest site able to meet large orders, such as the 600 aligners the company put into Kwik Fit in the 2000s.
Supertracker’s success has been built on the way its alignment units clip to the wheel, Lovesy says, with current promotional videos showing an alignment being completed in 59 seconds. The company estimates that its 410 unit can yield up to £45,000 profit in its first year.
Supertracker is also focused on increasing knowledge of alignment amongst its customers – the aspect of the business that Lovesy ranks as “the biggest”. The company runs alignment theory training sessions – that are not Supertracker specific – for 10-12 people on the first Wednesday of every month. This approach, alongside the speed with which Supertracker alignment procedures can be performed, has also seen the company “getting into Volkswagen and Audi dealers”, Lovesy says.
Understanding wheel alignment
Jerry Barker is himself a good example of the development of the power of understanding wheel alignment, having started to look at tread wear patterns as a tyre fitter. He says the units Supertracker produces promote “fewer errors” as a result of decreased setup, and the reduced interaction with the vehicle necessary when using Supertracker aligners means they promote “greater repeatability”. But he also emphasises the importance of the knowledge and experience of the technician operating the alignment equipment in achieving the best results in tyre wear and fuel economy. With computerised systems there is naturally a temptation for the operator to allow the system to dictate absolutely the way they set up the car.
However, Barker says, “the peculiarities of the cars under alignment means that experience and knowledge of the vehicle and UK road conditions is important.” The experience of the alignment technician comes into play because of the differences associated with driving on different sides of the road – including camber variations and the fact that more turns are taken one way than the other – Barker exemplifies.
For this reason, Barker says he prefers technicians to learn alignment procedures using the older laser systems; after experience of this method – available in lower priced alignment units – people in the workshop are better placed to “know why the computer is doing what it does.” Perhaps the key aspect of computerised alignment in that system’s favour is in the perception of customers. With a printout, or a large screen displaying alignment information, customers can perceive for themselves the value for money in paying for an alignment procedure. With this in mind, Supertracker points to the value to workshops and sales effectiveness of a second display in reception – in addition to providing transparency in the industry, other customers can be shown the availability and effectiveness of alignment.
Helping Supertracker to celebrate its 25th anniversary was Cummfy Banana “top banana” and host of the Discovery Channel’s “Wheeler Dealers” programme, Edd China. In addition to giving guests a ride in a road-legal motorised bed and sofa – ideas derived from China’s work on television programmes such as Father Ted – he endorsed the value of Supertracker’s alignment expertise, having worked with the company for many years.