Boasting a line-up of 1,880 exhibitors from 63 countries and the presence of 23 country pavilions and 34 international trade associations, Automechanika Dubai returned last month.

The ever-evolving event also opened with four new sub-sections comprising: Agricultural Parts & Equipment; Body & Paint; Motorcycle Competence; and Oils & Lubricants. Fleet owners were also tempted to look at the all-encompassing Truck Competence initiative, where 1,260 exhibitors brought products dedicated to the entire value chain in the truck sector, from truck parts and accessories, to workshop equipment, body repairs and care.

As ever, a highlight for fleet owners and managers was the Automechanika Academy (AA) featuring key presentations such as an overview of Dubai’s auto parts and accessories trade in 2018 by the Dubai Customs and its role in a sector estimated to be worth over $60 billion in the MENA region.

The event has grown in stature over the years and although some exhibitors and visitors (over 30,000 were expected over the three-day event) told T&FME that they are never sure whether they arrive in expectation or obligation at Automechanika it remains the best place for manufacturers to launch products while the spotlight is on their sector.

A-MAP (Al Muqarram Auto Spare Parts Trading), for instance, used this year’s show to launch its latest range of European batteries designed to cope with extreme climate conditions. Describing the event as “a great place to discover product innovations and gain an understanding of the latest market trends”, A-MAP unveiled the ASIMCO PLUS range on the first day of the region’s biggest auto aftermarket exhibition.

According to the firm, the highly efficient maintenance range of ASIMCO PLUS batteries ensure “unparalleled performance” even in demanding climatic conditions. The batteries are manufactured in line with the highest quality standards and pass vigorous quality tests to ensure a hassle-free functioning, says A-MAP.

With most vehicles using an ISS (Idle Start Stop) system, AGM batteries offer a notable performance improvement over conventional batteries. A-MAP therefore aims to cater to this segment with the new brand as ASIMCO PLUS batteries are designed for the latest models of vehicles which use regenerative breaking and high energy demands.

The batteries also have full frame optimised grid design that enhances the longevity of the battery life and the active material has been developed to endure the aggressive usage conditions in high heat environment of the region. Delivered ready to use, the ASIMCO PLUS batteries use CA 100 Technology which boosts performance through its use of calcium alloys. The Heavy Duty range of batteries are uniquely designed with battery cover which include Labyrinth System, Safety Caps, Flame Arrestors and central degassing which makes batteries stronger, safer and more resistant to leaks and spills in demanding rough conditions.

Speaking to T&FME, A-Map market manager Summaya Amad says the company uses the event to meet and greet existing customers from around the world, especially those from the Gulf and Africa. She adds that the event remains important to the company as an opportunity to get market updates, find new companies and product launches.

“Dubai, with its ancient commercial and seafaring traditions, has long been recognised as the Middle East region’s leading trading hub and has emerged as its key re-export centre,” she says. “In more recent years, the Emirate has become a major venue for a number of growing, profitable industries. For us, Automechanika Dubai is extremely important as participation due to it being the only biggest aftermarket automotive exhibition in the region.”

Amad lists the major trends in the sector as: changes to customer expectations and value generation; an emerging new generation of vehicles; and a “shift in competitive power”.

She adds that A-Map is confident that it can continue to keep pace with the GCC’s own rapid growth in the aftermarket.

“According to a recent report in Arabian Business, the number of vehicles on Gulf roads is set to grow at 5% annually to 13.2 million in 2020. That gives us an opportunity to focus on this growth and contribute towards the demand.”

While she states the event earns its premier status in the region’s aftermarket calendar, she believes it could even stronger.

“This year the event felt slower compared to earlier years,” she notes. “We feel Automechanika Dubai should be held once in two years and follow footsteps of Automehcanika Frankfurt.”

Many of the changes in the truck industry are being driven by progress in driveline technology. The US firm has placed itself firmly at the centre of this evolution but also continues to offer an array of solutions for light and heavy commercial vehicles. The company showcased its popular brands, such as Victor Reinz gaskets and Spicer transmissions and driveshafts. It also launched new gaskets for the North American vehicle range, as well as its Tru Cool brand at the exhibition.

Area sales manager Bineet Kumar hints to T&FME that Dana has more to offer the region and entered the event, “looking forward to meeting some new sales leads for the new product lines we want to launch in the market soon. Automechanika offers Dana the opportunity to meet in-person with a number of our existing business partners to discuss our current and future business opportunities.”

When asked how important the event is for Dana, Kumar replies with a simple: “Very important. Automechanika Dubai is undoubtedly the biggest exhibition happening not only in the whole Gulf region, but also in North and East Africa.”

The aftermarket business for the engine spare parts is extremely good within the region, Kumar further notes: “This is partly because of the extreme weather conditions, challenging terrain, and the road and transport infrastructure. The aftermarket business presents a strong opportunity for further growth in the coming years.”

Given the shift toward e-mobility among the global automakers, the aftermarket business for the components of internal combustion engines is going to take a very interesting turn in the coming years, says Kumar.

“However, we see this change as a marathon and not a sprint. Each region and market will adopt the technology with varying pace and enthusiasm. This presents great opportunity for the aftermarket business to remain strong and grow.”

With existing products to demonstrate and new ranges on display, Kumar is enthusiastic about the opportunity Automechanika Dubai offers the leading global supplier.

“I think the show was excellent, as attendance was significant. For me personally, it was worth the investment,” he says. “This year’s show did face some challenges given the heat in June and its proximity to the observance of Ramadan, but overall I believe it was a success.”

A-Map and Dana were not alone in using the event to demonstrate how they are developing their products and offering in the aftermarket sector.

Under the GP Global Umbrella, flagship brand MAG Lubricants arrived at the show with a full portfolio of lubricants to cater for a complete range of B2B and B2C needs across the region. It also displayed its IPOL range of lubricants from the Indian heritage brand. Mahmoud Al Theraawi, CEO, GP Global MAG, said Automechanika Dubai remains a “great platform to connect with prospective customers and industry folks” although he insisted that the event must continue to resonate with serious buyers to maintain its relevance.
Like others, Al Theraawi believes the show’s location is one of its enduring strengths:

“Dubai is amongst the biggest trading hubs in the world and is a gateway for the region, also its diversity and the number of nationalities living and doing business here makes it extremely important,” he said.

The lubricants market continues to evolve but so do consumer tastes in the region. Al Theraawi affirms that his company has readily adapted its offering and presence to suit the changing market.

“The technology evolution in the lubricants category excites me and we are happy to say that MAG is embracing that technological advancement fast and making products which are extremely relevant to the aftermarket,” he says. “A testimony of it is that we have most of the OEM approvals required to compete and very recently got BMW’s approval on two of our products – MAG Prima Envo FE 0w30 and Mag Prima Envo Plus 5w3.

He continues: “We are also seeing a shift in behaviour in the region where earlier it was more a CIFM/DIFM market to more of a CIY/DIFM market. MAG has a good Image in terms of the quality of the product with our customers and consumers. We are also increasing our footprint whereby very recently we have tied up with SAMACO Automotive in Saudi Arabia which is the exclusive Dealership and franchise workshop chain of Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, etc.”

The increasing need for car ownership across the population of emerging economies is one of the factors anticipated to drive demand for aftermarket automotive lubricants, says Al Theraawi looking ahead.

“As consumers in developed and developing regions have different mobility needs so continued urbanisation is likely to lead them toward car ownership,” he explains. “Moreover, engine design changes are driven by ever more stringent emission norms that mandate the use of high- performance lubricants and are expected to drive demand for synthetic engine oils. Also the decreasing sump capacities and longer drain intervals will decrease the actual category size.”

SAF-HOLLAND showcased the world’s lightest air suspension with disc brake axles for trailers as well as trailer axles with a high capacity of 20t (its new YORK axles and mechanical suspensions, for instance, have a capacity per axle up to 20,000kg). The company also offers the towing system brand V.Orlandi and it claims disc brake technology brand INTRADSC is the lightest and the safest product in the market for advance trailer design. Jean Khoury, managing director, SAF-HOLLAND Middle East said the event was also an opportunity to reveal its new branding for its SAUER aftermarket brand with the company arriving at the event hoping to attract new business.

“SAF-HOLLAND covers the whole range of products related to trailer design in the region. Automechanika Dubai was an opportunity to meet new potential customers for trucks and trailer spare parts, as well as some OEM trailer manufacturers who would use our innovative air suspension axles with Disc brake for Trailers,” he explains.

Khoury adds the firm is also targeting fleets through the recently acquired digital trailer management specialist Axscend whose Trailermaster product can aid fleet operations to reduce TCO, he says, “by monitoring the important parts of the trailers such as the lightening system, the brake efficiency and the axle load with a very smart and easy equipment. We are looking for a partner to start the prototyping and to test it in this environment.”

He also believes its SAF INTRA CD TRAK system which adds a driven axle on trailers in the 9t standard range will also help fleets in the region: “This will be the next evolutionary step of this product, especially due to the high axle rate here.”

Al Masaood Commercial Vehicles and Equipment (CV&E) Division used the event to highlights its latest technologies and equipment, such as as tyre repairing, automatic high-quality car wash and car lifting. The recently created unit brought an array of top multinational brands to the show-floor.

COO Robert Schwarz says Automechanika Dubai remains the “perfect platform to showcase the latest innovative technologies from our partners that will answer to the growing demand of automotive workshop equipment. Our decades of experience in the UAE’s automotive sales and after-sales market, has allowed us to meet the consistently increasing demand we have witnessed in this segment recently.”