WALKING THE LINE
Anyone who has had the opportunity to spend time in the company of RPM Automotive Group Ltd Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Clive Finkelstein, will agree his drive and passion for the automotive industry knows no bounds
While Clive is responsible for steering the direction of several automotive manufacturing, importing and distribution businesses – including Revolution Racegear, Spider GT, Formula Offroad, Air Anywhere plus Genie and Wildcat Headers – his focus on the growth and evolution of Carline is laser-sharp.
Carline has its origins in the USA as part of Tenneco Automotive. Following its success in the States, Carline was launched in Australia in the early 1990s. Over the last 30+ years, those behind Carline say it has endured and grown, cementing its position as one of the best-established and most well-respected brands in automotive repairs and maintenance.
“Many consider Carline the largest retail group of performance, emissions, and accessories in Australia,” Clive said.
“And it’s hard to argue with that. There are more than 120 Carline service centres spread across Australia, all manned by highly skilled technicians committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations.”
As the rapid rate of change in the automotive servicing environment continues unabated, Clive and his team at Carline say they have stayed ahead of the curve to match the group’s offering with customer expectations.
“Over the journey, Carline has successfully diversified its offering without losing its core competencies in an industry that is experiencing a skills shortage,” Clive explained.
“A substantial number of our current Carline members have been with the group since the early 90s.
“To their credit, they have adapted, upskilled, and changed the way they behave as cars have just become more complicated to repair and service.”
Initially, Carline built their reputation as exhaust and muffler replacement, upgrade and repair experts, and the group was initially known by the Carline Mufflers moniker. But as policymakers moved to reduce environmental impacts, Carline focused on emissions reduction and compliance.
“Emissions have become an enormous part of the automotive aftermarket in the States and Australia certainly followed suit, but not to the same degree,” said Clive.
“And while we are considered amongst the most highly skilled practitioners in this area, we have continued to diversify.
“Now the lion’s share of our members also offer logbook servicing, supply, and fitment of towing products including tow bars and protection gear, bolt-on accessories, suspension, brakes, batteries, commercial and heavy-duty mufflers, radiators, wheels and tyres, in addition to vehicle modifications and tuning services,” Clive explained.
It is certainly exciting to track the evolution of a traditional business like Carline and watch as they pivot and take a new trajectory to ensure they remain relevant and profitable.
As the number of diesel-powered vehicles in the Australian car parc has increased, dealing with the issues surrounding proper maintenance and repair of Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) has become a hot topic that Clive and his team identified as an opportunity for the group.
“There so no doubt that consumers feel like they are in the dark when it comes to DPFs,” said Clive.
“What tends to happen is that the public goes straight to the manufacturer when the DPF warning light illuminates on their dash and it ends up costing them a lot of money.
“We are planning to engage with the team at the AAAA to roll-out a campaign debunking a number of the myths that surround DPFs.
“Our goal is to educate motorists about their options when it comes to deciding between DPF repair and replacement, in addition to providing them with tips for DPF maintenance.”
Carline says its members have the expertise and experience to accurately diagnose DPF faults and to program the oxygen sensors to avoid premature DPF failure.
Fleet work is also an essential part of Carline’s continued success. The group’s nationwide dealer network, national warranty, and pricing structure, combined with their commitment to repeatable technical expertise and exceptional customer service, make them popular with companies running larger fleet operations.
“Our National infrastructure is such an important part of Carline’s success. Our ability to offer the same quality service, the same-priced service, and a national warranty is a big advantage that will come into focus even more due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clive said.
“We believe that domestic travel will grow exponentially over the next five years, as we all know international travel has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
“Our national dealer network provides customers with peace-of-mind, knowing that no matter how far from home they venture, there will always be a Carline service centre close at hand.”
Of course, this national footprint loses its value quickly if motorists have trouble identifying their closest store, and this is where Carline’s continued investment in brand recognition has built equity for its members.
“There are several ingredients that, when combined, have helped secure the long-term success of the group,” said Clive.
“You need committed, highly skilled people, quality products, and a memorable brand. One that stands above all others, and I think the Carline brand has endured over 30 something years because it has become a household name in the automotive industry.”
Of course, navigating the path forward is never without its challenges, and Clive has identified two significant obstacles facing not only Carline but the entire automotive aftermarket.
“Right now, I see the complexity of Australia’s car parc as our biggest challenge,” Clive remarked.
“Twenty years ago, Commodore, Falcon and Camry dominated new car sales, but in what is a relatively small market, Australia has what could potentially be the widest range of vehicles available for purchase of any market globally.
“That makes it very difficult for workshops and repairers because souring the correct parts and understanding the differences between a French car and an American car and a car made in Thailand is a challenge.
“We are lucky to have the AAAA on our side because the success of their choice of repairer campaign has provided our members with access to the data required to service and repair all makes and models that end up in our workshops.”
Clive also flagged poor and short-sighted policymaking as an ongoing issue for all players in the automotive aftermarket.
“I consider the AAAA as our industry watchdog. Stuart and his highly skilled team are our first line of defence against major industry changes brought about by political manipulation,” Clive explained.
“The AAAA has positioned itself to effectively collective bargain with legislators and standards initiators to ensure the correct and accurate information is being acted upon and to try and ensure that the correct decisions are made that are not only in the public’s best interest but in the automotive industry’s as well.”
Clive provided an example of the successful lobbying that the AAAA has undertaken regarding suspension modifications and upgrades, which represent an essential part of Carline’s business.
“Recently there was a concern about the effects aftermarket suspension upgrades have on a vehicle’s performance and safety,” said Clive
“Many policymakers were of the view that suspension modifications, of the type which we often complete, reduced the capability of the vehicle.
“The AAAA led a charge, assisted by a lot of us in the industry, and in a combined effort, we were able to prove that suspension upgrades, specifically in four-wheel drives, actually improved handling and safety, which was a massive win for the aftermarket.
“Without the ongoing support that the AAAA provides, there is no doubt that the challenges facing the automotive aftermarket would be almost insurmountable.
“In challenging times like those we face as a result of the current pandemic, the AAAA comes into its own providing invaluable support and resources that make a measurable difference.”
To find out more about The Carline Automotive Group, visit www.carline.com.au