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Joining The Rank

Monday, January 23, 2012 - 01:00
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Time, as it relates to writing columns, is an interesting challenge. I am writing this while attending the AAPEX and SEMA shows. You are reading this as the February issue. The risk of writing about something absolutely fresh is that it could be old news by the time you read it. Just think of the magazines that reported Steve Jobs retiring from Apple only to have it hit the stands a few days after his passing.

My news is positive and may be common knowledge by the time you read it, but it gives me another opportunity to write about the phenomenon of industry standard companies reinventing themselves. I am speaking this time of Fram/Autolite. It is almost impossible to hear those names and not associate them with filters and spark plugs, so there is no confusion about what their main products are. Recently, both companies, along with names like Airtex and Wells, were purchased by The Rank Group Limited and given a new lease on life, an opportunity to reinvent themselves.

 

Rank is a privately held investment company out of New Zealand. According to Jim Brown, director of marketing for Fram/Autolite, working within the confines of a structure like Honeywell, Fram/Autolite’s previous owner, and The Rank Group is different because Rank owns more consumer-facing companies and is privately held. Expectations and resources to grow the brands were part of the plan right from the beginning.

As an auto technician and shop owner, I recognized these names as mainstays in our industry that have become — for lack of a better term — a little long in the tooth. They have such a familiar name that they were used, by their previous owners, to drive sales of consumer quality parts. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that’s a bad thing. The problem is that as a professional, the only company of the four that I was confident in is Autolite, my plug of choice in Ford products. The layers of marketing and sales through big-box stores with pricing that was aimed at the budget-minded DIYer left me in doubt of product quality. You might be thinking that the Fram guys are looking to take a hit out on me about now. Truth is, their A game has been gathering splinters on the bench for quite some time and Jim Brown is well aware of it. Along with a talented and re-energized staff, the entire Rank Automotive Group is focused on finding areas where improvement or opportunity lie. They have a particular interest in areas where product simply does not exist to satisfy a need.

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If there were any doubts about the product knowledge these guys have, it can certainly be laid to rest. I was fortunate enough to have Jeff Boehler, head of engineering at Autolite, as a guest host on my radio program recently. He answered some very complex questions for listeners in a way they could understand. This is the kind of interface customers in both the professional and DIY markets are looking for these days. It gives confidence that the product will meet their needs.

I commend all of the folks at Fram/Autolite for their commitment to their product and wish them the best at reinventing themselves. I am also very excited about some of the products they talked about that I could not yet talk about here.

If you have a story about a company that is reinventing itself, or a fascinating start up story, please email me at Donny@SeyferAuto.com and maybe I can feature them in one of my columns.

Time, as it relates to writing columns, is an interesting challenge. I am writing this while attending the AAPEX and SEMA shows. You are reading this as the February issue. The risk of writing about something absolutely fresh is that it could be old news by the time you read it. Just think of the magazines that reported Steve Jobs retiring from Apple only to have it hit the stands a few days after his passing.

My news is positive and may be common knowledge by the time you read it, but it gives me another opportunity to write about the phenomenon of industry standard companies reinventing themselves. I am speaking this time of Fram/Autolite. It is almost impossible to hear those names and not associate them with filters and spark plugs, so there is no confusion about what their main products are. Recently, both companies, along with names like Airtex and Wells, were purchased by The Rank Group Limited and given a new lease on life, an opportunity to reinvent themselves.

 

Rank is a privately held investment company out of New Zealand. According to Jim Brown, director of marketing for Fram/Autolite, working within the confines of a structure like Honeywell, Fram/Autolite’s previous owner, and The Rank Group is different because Rank owns more consumer-facing companies and is privately held. Expectations and resources to grow the brands were part of the plan right from the beginning.

As an auto technician and shop owner, I recognized these names as mainstays in our industry that have become — for lack of a better term — a little long in the tooth. They have such a familiar name that they were used, by their previous owners, to drive sales of consumer quality parts. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that’s a bad thing. The problem is that as a professional, the only company of the four that I was confident in is Autolite, my plug of choice in Ford products. The layers of marketing and sales through big-box stores with pricing that was aimed at the budget-minded DIYer left me in doubt of product quality. You might be thinking that the Fram guys are looking to take a hit out on me about now. Truth is, their A game has been gathering splinters on the bench for quite some time and Jim Brown is well aware of it. Along with a talented and re-energized staff, the entire Rank Automotive Group is focused on finding areas where improvement or opportunity lie. They have a particular interest in areas where product simply does not exist to satisfy a need.

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