By Clint Simone
Tools & Equipment Market Insights
Reconnecting With the 2015 New Products Showcase Top Finishers
Tasked with the necessity of making automotive modifications, repairs and restoration easier and more attainable, the Tools & Equipment section exhibitors are perhaps the most diverse in the automotive aftermarket.
The year 2015 proved to be one of growth and development for the Tools & Equipment segment of the automotive aftermarket. For example, the SEMA Show New Products Showcase demonstrated 22% growth in the Tools & Equipment section, totaling 195 product entries. The array of products entered included everything from glass-removing robots to an automotive battery analyzer.
“This expanding section of the New Products Showcase exhibits a positive trend in product ingenuity and shows the commitment from our member companies to bringing new and improved products to the marketplace,” said Tom Gattuso, the director of the SEMA Show.
Tasked with the necessity of making automotive modifications, repairs and restoration easier and more attainable, the Tools & Equipment section exhibitors are perhaps the most diverse in the automotive aftermarket. SEMA News reached out to companies that participated in the Tools & Equipment category in the most recent New Products Showcase to hear about the latest trends leading product development.
Changing Times, Changing Products
One of the most prevalent catalysts for change has been original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) innovation, especially with regard to the materials used for car building.
“The cars are changing to now include different materials,” explained Brian Gutierrez, president of Equip Automotive Systems. “This means that we need to develop new products to accommodate them. For example, aluminum needs to be bonded, not welded, so more shops need the ability to work on both materials. When Ford changed the F-150 to aluminum construction, I think that opened up a lot of opportunity for the industry to follow suit. Once other OEMs, such as Honda, start doing the same thing, you will start to see that many of the tools offered will change to keep up with demand.”
Rick Nelson, senior product manager for Nelson Glass Tools, agreed that exotic materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber have entered the working environment.
“Using new cutting elements such as synthetic filaments, paint damage has all but been eliminated and has decreased in cost dramatically,” he said.
The switch in materials has caused the aftermarket to react and provide appropriate solutions to issues not previously considered.
“The upside of this change is that, with metal blades removed from the tool kit, new trainees can immediately use the equipment with a very short time of training,” said Nelson.
In addition to changing building materials, there is another OEM push forward—the continuing race toward autonomy. And as cars progress in this direction, both the mechanics and the tools they utilize will change.
“The next generation of car enthusiasts will be facing new challenges with the introduction of electric cars and self-driving cars,” explained Craig Carlton, the founder of Red Baron Tools.
“Having a shop that runs efficiently will be critical to owners so that they can give the best value to their customers.”
Optimizing the Workspace
Brian Gutierrez (right) and the Equip Automotive Systems team celebrating their New Products Showcase Award.
As automotive shops adjust to a more “one stop for all” blueprint, the tools used on the job can become costly and quite cumbersome. Each of the participants in the New Products Showcase Tools & Equipment category has developed its own solution to combat this issue.
“As always, power and durability are paramount, but ergonomics and compact design have been added to the mix,” exclaimed Marvin Spehar, marketing communication manager of Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co. “Smaller, more compact tools—which are lighter and easier to use—are quickly gaining popularity. Not only is it the amount of available torque that these new compact tools provide, it’s also the advantage of being able to access compact and restricted areas.”
“It seems that there is a move toward minimizing the work space inside shops, and I am seeing more ‘one stop does all’ businesses,” said Carlton, whose product requires only 24x24 in. of space and gives the user access to 200-plus tools. “These shops tend to be smaller in size, requiring the owners to minimize the footprint of their equipment and tools.”
Gutierrez outlined a similar product strategy.
“We developed a product after spending years around auto bodyshops, which eventually led us to develop the Smart Bench,” he said. “Consumers who work in these types of environments have been looking for products that make moving around a shop easier. The product takes all of the utilities needed in the workplace and puts them in one place, where a mechanic can find them easily.”
Similarly, Glass Bot, the winner of the best new product in the tools & equipment category of the 2015 New Products Showcase, was derived from the desire to simplify the repair process in an automotive workshop.
“The Bot, a glass-removal system, for the first time allows a technician to stand next to the car and watch the operation through the glass, not behind it,” Nelson said. “It also removes the physical strain from the job. I hope that those who use our product will return to their families safely from a day’s work, without physical limitation from the previous day’s work.”
The solutions from these companies demonstrate consistent innovation in the tools segment, as displayed in the annual SEMA Show. With OEMs pushing the envelope on car production and professionals demanding a more cohesive, sensible workplace, products will likely continue to change. Even with persistent evolution, one thing remains true: Finding the right tool for the job is becoming far less of a chore than it ever was before.