First Brands Group going through the gears with OESAA

First Brands Group signed-up to the Original Equipment Suppliers Aftermarket Association (OESAA) in September last year.

Two of its main aims when it joined the organisation was to raise the awareness of the Airtex brand and take its OE pedigree to the technicians.

Sam Robinson, brand and marketing manager of First Brands Group explains how it is achieving those goals. “I am confident that most technicians will have installed an Airtex water pump, but they may not necessarily have known it,” he said.

Airtex, with its European technology and manufacturing facility based in Zaragoza, Spain is capable of producing more than five million water pumps every year. It is an OE supplier to companies both in Europe and the USA, supplying vehicle manufacturers, like Renault, but also brands that will be familiar to the aftermarket.

One of those brands is Schaeffler – also an OESAA member – which has just recognised Airtex’s outstanding commitment in its “collaborative relationship”. Airtex supplies Schaeffler under its INA brand.

Robinson continued: “We have incredible technical know-how and are increasing the pace in which we share that expertise, from technical workouts in a workshop setting to demonstrating our technical innovations at industry events.”

Furthermore, Airtex is investigating new ways in which to deliver content and training faster and more efficiently.

This ambition has come at the right time for OESAA too; OESAA’s growing membership is continuing to produce timely and enlightening best practice guides.

For example, Schaeffler and Laser Tools recently combined to produce a ball joint removal and installation on a Ford Transit. This type of material is precisely what OESAA and its membership are striving to create. It mirrors what First Brands, with its Airtex brand, in particular, is looking to share at workshop level.

Robinson said: “We recognise the need for us to add our OE input into these types of articles, which are obviously gold dust to technicians, so we’ll be looking to push ourselves to the front of the queue going forward.”

In 2021, Airtex enjoyed its best year ever in terms of turnover, which was the culmination of a decade of growth; a decade ago, it received €12 million worth of sales, while last year it recorded €70 million.

Meanwhile, Trico continues to be a strong part of the First Brands Group arsenal – and has been on the receiving end of some “good wins” in terms of private label business.

Robinson has observed a trend that he believes has enhanced its desirability. “Moving our manufacturing from Mexico to Europe definitely triggered a lift in demand,” he said. “We are acutely aware customers are looking to make their business more efficient – costs, time and emissions are huge considerations – and when we’re asked to tender, we’re being asked to identify the source of our products.”

Motorsport continues to play a significant part for Trico too, and it expanded its portfolio in 2022 with a partnership in Formula Woman, which is designed to find the next female motor racing champion.

“It’s a brilliant initiative; we’re enjoying being an ambassador of a championship that is giving female racing drivers amazing opportunities and is giving them a platform to pursue careers in motorsport,” Robinson said.

Trico also has two Ginettas in the GT4 Supercars Endurance Series – with the Ginetta G55 winning the first race of the season in Jarama, Spain. Robinson can also envisage a path into motorsport for Airtex – perhaps as early as 2023 – which would become a First Brands partnership.

OESAA will be exhibiting at this year’s Auto Trade EXPO, which takes place from Saturday and Sunday, October 15-16 at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin.

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