AUTOMECHANIKA 2008 - Show Report
Last week, I went out to Frankfurt in Germany for three days to attend the 20th Automechanika trade fair. Since making its debut in 1971, the Frankfurt Automechanika fair has grown to become one of the most important meeting places in the world for manufacturers and distributors in the car sector, and numerous other fairs now run each year in other countries around the world under the same brand name.
A few facts about this year's fair for you; the organisers expected more than 4,600 exhibitors and around 160,000 trade visitors to attend the week long show. Held every two years, the Frankfurt Automechanika fair offers trade visitors a unique opportunity to view new products in the automobile parts, car care & refinishing, washing, workshop, filling-station, accessories and tuning sectors. The fair is unparalleled in terms of size and internationality with around 40 percent of trade visitors and 80 percent of exhibitors at the last event coming from outside Germany.
I can testify that the scale of the show was quite frankly unbelievable. Ten multi-storey halls are used, with a total floor area of over three million square feet (that's 3000 times the size of our unit lol!), and it took me over twenty minutes to walk from the city entrance to the car care and refinishing halls! Whilst I was there, I met up with Bert from Wax-It in Belgium (the car care company, not the new UK magazine); it's always nice to a have a buddy to wander around with when things are so daunting! Fortunately, I'd received a phone book size guide to the show in the post a few weeks before the fair took place, so we had a plan...
In total, there was just over two dozen exhibitors I was keen to talk to, and these included some existing suppliers - always nice to meet suppliers face to face, as it makes business more personal and friendly. And in some cases it also improves communication where English isn't everyone's first langauge! I have to admit, I can't give a full run through of who we spoke to and what products are fresh on the block, as I went to the show in order to provide us with new opportunities for 2009, and I'm not about to give anything away at this point on a public forum. However, some valuable information was gained from Menzerna that can be shared, and this is given below. In addition, we have three new exciting product lines to test over the next 2-3 months, and if the outcome is as favourable as we expect based on demonstrations at the fair, then 2009 could be very interesting indeed!
Information from Menzerna Gmbh
It was great to meet up with Michael and Axel from Menzerna Gmbh at long last; Menzerna was one of the first ranges we introduced to the UK back in 2006, and it has been very rewarding doing business with them ever since (whether directly or via Classic Motoring Accessories in the US). I had a list of specific questions for them, some of which may interest you...
Recently, the labels on our bottles of RD3.02 changed from saying Intensive Polish to Power Finish. Is there a difference in the product?
No, and yes! Recent batches of RD3.02 shipped to the UK have been given the Power Finish label, but as long as the sticker on the bottom of the bottle says PO85RD3.02 on line two, then RD3.02 is what you have - same formula as before. However, Menzerna have recently released a new product, under the PO203 codename, and this is properly known as Power Finish (available in two versions, one for scratch-resistant finishes, the other for conventional clears). It is essentially a much more extreme version of the 106 formula, and has been designed as a one step product for use on production lines. Thus, it is capable of completely removing 2500-3000 grit sanding marks in just six seconds. I kid you not, what we were taught about paint correction on car production lines beggers belief. For example; freshly painted cars shells leave the oven at around 120oC, with any significant nibs highlighted by dye after laser detection. A team of technicians then has just 18 seconds to denib and polish out before the next car comes out of the oven. 18 seconds FFS! Thus, after one technician sands, another technician polishes, and products like PO203 make this process possible. This is also one of the reasons why Menzerna polishes can play up in cold weather; many are designed primarily to work on hot paint - and I mean really hot paint! We have some PO203 to test, and if it has merit as a one step polish for detailers then we will introduce it in due course.
Is 106FF still available in addition to 106FA? This is because we prefer 106FF on the rotary and 106FA on the DA...
No. 106FF production has now been discontinued, and to have it reproduced would require a significant volume commitment, which no aftermarket supplier would likely attempt to meet without risking bankruptcy!
Have you come across the sticky paint problem on new and nearly new cars? (I proceeded to explain the problem at length, and straight away Axel knew exactly what I was talking about)...
This is an increasingly common problem, and reflects a change in the nature of protective coatings applied at the factory (and also at the dealership, to a lesser extent). In recent years, many manufacturers have stopped using old school protective coatings whose use has been or soon will be banned under new environmental regulations (these coatings have to be washed off, and watercourse pollution is a major environmental pressure these days, hence the need for change). In their place, many manufacturers are now using new chemical coatings and in some cases even special films for protection during transport from the factory to dealerships. The sticky paint problem arises if such products contain certain types of silicone compounds that form a skin on the surface of the paint and fill the pores in the surface layer. This skin is then tremendously resiliant to chemical and physical erosion, and this causes the polishing process to be far less effective. In essence, you end up trying to polish a silicone layer rather than the paint, and even when a thin layer of paint has been removed, the problem may persist due to the silicone having entered the pore structure at depth. The only solution to the problem is either to persist with awkward polishing until breakthrough occurs (we have seen this happen numerous times ourselves) or else wetsand the paint surface first (more effective and less risky than overheating the panels with the rotary, but time consuming to say the least). Of course, switching to a DA machine can keep temperatures down, but the level of cut is usually less, so even more work has to be done to attain breakthrough. Thus, right now, there is no magic answer to this problem - Menzerna are fully aware of it and will be raising it with the car manufacturers they work closely with, but for now it's not a problem that is going to go away. In addition, the application of some protective coatings by dealerships can produce a similar effect, which is not guaranteed to be solved by using co-polymer removers if the product has got into the pore struture of the paint. What is encouraging is that collectively the detailing community nailed the root problem even if the exact cause was unclear (I guess most of us thought it was a dealership applied problem, not a manufacturer applied problem lol!). Oh well, at least we know. Best get the Mirka sanders asap then!
PS - Sadly, due to the nature of the fair, photography is strictly banned, and I wasn't about to risk getting thrown out by trying my luck for the report! Sorry!