BELTED UP FOR A DYNAMIC FUTURE
Gates has built a reputation for designing and manufacturing a vast range of quality automotive belts and hoses
However, when the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Magazine sat down with Carl McGowan, Managing Director of Gates in Australia and New Zealand, we discovered they are also uniquely poised for an even more dynamic future.
The Gates Corporation is headquartered in Denver (USA) and was originally founded in 1911 by Charles Gates. At that time, the business manufactured a range of leather studded bands designed to be wrapped around tyres to extend their durability.
“Like many businesses with a history that extends back 110 years – a significant milestone we will celebrate in October this year – the Gates story is one of triumph over adversity,” Carl said.
Over the years, Gates has weathered recessions, depressions, and two world wars. By building and nurturing a culture that rewards lateral thinking, agility, and innovation, Gates has been able to pivot quickly as challenges arise and new opportunities present themselves.
“Our mantra is ‘Driven by Possibility’ and we embrace that every day,” Carl explained.
“We’re driven to push the boundaries of materials science to engineer products that continually exceed expectations.
“We don’t rest on our rich heritage of innovation. We leverage it to inspire solutions that will power the next hundred years.
“We invest continually in R&D and technology, so our products not only outperform industry standards, but also exceed our customers’ demanding expectations.”
At its core, Gates’ experience is materials science and like many successful businesses, it has a tightly defined area in which it applies its in-depth knowledge.
“We innovate and develop fluid power and power transmission products,” Carl explained.
“You can think of fluid power as anything that’s got a liquid passing. From an automotive perspective, it could be water, oil, or even compressed air.
“Power transmission refers to anything that moves and transfers power from one source to another, for example, a belt or pulley.
“And both extend way beyond the automotive industry. For example, if you own a vacuum cleaner at home with a turbo brush head, there is a strong possibility a synchronous Gates belt drives the brush head.
“You can also find Gates’ power transmission products almost anywhere, from food blenders to game consoles, in conveyer belts on production lines, right up to the biggest piece of equipment on a mine site.”
To continually drive innovation, Gates invests heavily in its greatest asset, its people.
“Our committed and talented team brings with them real-world experience that enables us to solve our customers’ diverse challenges of today and anticipate those of tomorrow,” Carl said.
“With the help of our team, we are constantly expanding our product catalogue and value-added service offerings to support every facet of our customers’ operations.
“In the most extreme environments and those more familiar, Gates is there with the right product, in the right place, at the right time. Whether building original equipment or maintaining products in the aftermarket, we enable companies in every industry to be more efficient, productive, and profitable.”
Locally, Gates Australia operates from a distribution centre in Dandenong South and provides substantial coverage of its markets through a dedicated field sales team, located in each state, servicing all states and territories as well as New Zealand.
“We enjoy the challenge of testing our products in extreme environments, and our involvement in many motorsport disciplines certainly pushes the limits of their performance,” Carl said.
Gates has been a long-time supporter of Victor Bray and Jay Upton, two of the most iconic names in Australian drag racing, and more recently, has developed a mutually beneficial relationship with Andre Heimgartner, a circuit racer whose star is on the rise.
“Our relationship with Andre started about five years ago when he was driving in the Porsche Carrera Cup series,” Carl said.
“Gates took this ‘too good to refuse’ sponsorship opportunity to one of our fluid power distributors, and we both jumped on-board and have been riding shot-gun as his career has developed.”
After a couple of successful years in the Porsche Carrera Cup Championship, Andre got his first chance to run in the Supercar Championship as a co-driver at Bathurst in 2014 before joining the series full-time in 2015.
“Because our product range is heavily automotive, we always like to be associated within motorsport at the top level,” Carl explained.
“We’ve been supporting Andre through a variety of categories, and we’re incredibly excited about his assault on the 2021 Supercars Championship with Kelly Grove Racing.”
Andre joined the Kelly Brothers in 2018, stepping into the #7 Nissan vacated by retiring stalwart and team owner Todd Kelly before showing enough promise to be entrusted with a second and then third and fourth season.
“While the 2020 season was a challenge for many drivers as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Andre stepped it up again, taking two podiums and a maiden pole at Sydney Motorsport Park,” Carl said.
“This year, Andre is considered one of the drivers with the potential to secure the championship as he lines up with new Kelly Grove racing recruit David Reynolds. We can’t wait to watch his progress, and we’ll do whatever it takes to give him the best chance to win.”
Gates leverages its sponsorship, and many distributors and customers have been lucky enough to strap into Andre’s Supercar for a hot lap.
Globally, Gates proudly supplies parts to more than 34 OE manufacturers worldwide and says it brings that same quality, reliability and performance to its OE-equivalent aftermarket parts.
“Our OE business is extensive globally, but with the end of vehicle manufacturing locally, GPC is our largest global automotive aftermarket partner, supplying aftermarket parts through Repco and more recently Napa in Australia and New Zealand,” Carl commented.
Like many of his peers, Carl is well aware that the increasing popularity of Electric Vehicles will forever change Australia’s automotive landscape in the not-too-distant future. At the same time, he is confident that Gates is well placed for the transition from internal combustion engines.
“Firstly, let me make it clear that we’ll always have a range of products to support combustion engines as we know there is a huge number of car enthusiasts who are committed to preserving their own slice of automotive history, especially here in Australia and New Zealand,” Carl said.
“But we are also prepared as hybrid and EV become more and more popular.”
Carl mentioned that replacement fluid power and power transmission products are more complex and, as a result, generally more expensive to replace in hybrids and electric vehicles.
“Typically, the hose systems on these vehicles are quite intricate because, especially on a fully electric vehicle, where multiple battery banks provide power, and cooling them is critical,” Carl explained.
“Most have multiple water pumps circulating fluid around the car, and you’ve got electric solenoid valves to direct the fluid to the appropriate place.”
Hybrid hoses and EV hoses are modular and branched. When they fail, they typically cost more to replace than a standard radiator hose common in combustion engines, simply because they are more complex.
“Gates has been supplying the US market with EV replacement components for some time,” Carl said.
“This shift to EV has seen us go from supplying a product that cost between $10 to $30 for combustion engine product to replacement costs in excess of $30 to $230 for an electric vehicle. That price difference is almost exclusively a result of the additional complexity of the battery cooling and general cooling systems.”
In addition to the passenger EV market growth, Gates has already developed a range of products for electric motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles.
“Globally, we utilise our extensive knowledge of materials science to improve our products and to develop new products for emerging technologies,” Carl explained.
“Today, it is not good enough to simply make a new yellow belt, we strive to make a new yellow belt that is also lighter, more flexible, and more durable.
“Our primary focus is to provide our end-users with increased fluid and power transmission capabilities that reduce downtime and increase productivity and performance.”
Of course, Gates has supported the AAAA for many years.
“AAAA is excellent for Gates and for all businesses working in the Australian automotive aftermarket,” Carl said.
“There’s no more OE business, so we’ve got to make sure that the industry from which we all earn a living is supported in the right way, and the AAAA is committed to making that happen.”
For more information, visit www.gatesaustralia.com.au