Shop equipment is significant export for Italian manufacturers

Jan. 1, 2020
BOLOGNA, Italy -- The Old Country is indeed well known for its fashion, food and rich history, but the automotive industry here holds a prominent place in the global market. Northern Italy is in fact an industrial hub, where such OEMs as Ferrari, Lam
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BOLOGNA, Italy -- The Old Country is indeed well known for its fashion, food and rich history, but the automotive industry here holds a prominent place in the global market. Northern Italy is in fact an industrial hub, where such OEMs as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati are joined by a number of repair shop equipment manufacturers who engineer their products to the high standards set by these motorcycle and automakers.

Ravaglioli's Ferdinando Moro explains the manufacturing process for the company's shop equipment.

Approximately 50 percent of Europe’s shop equipment is made in Italy, says Renzo Servadei, general secretary of the Italian Automotive Service Equipment Manufacturers Association (AICA), Italy’s prominent service and parts organization. In fact, two-thirds of AICA members export their products.

Areas in Northern Italy such as Bologna are chock full of smaller companies that have a large impact on the global stage, and many of these businesses are born from humble beginnings, yet they implement detailed craftsmanship and advanced technology into their operations.

At Ravaglioli, a garage equipment maker, 83 percent of the company’s products are exported. “Now that we have a leading position all over Europe, it’s time to break into the U.S. market,” says Ferdinando Moro, general sales director for the manufacturer, which makes entire vehicle lifts, aligners, tire changers and wheel balancers from start to finish.

The company produces its entire product line in Italy. About 1,500 tons of steel is warehoused, and its factory in Northern Ferrara operates 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Another factor that sets Ravaglioli apart from the rest of the pack is its president, Silvano Santi, a trained engineer who takes extra care in the production of the company’s shop equipment. Santi reads every report from every regional sales manager, keeping a close tab on operations. 

Along with similar industries, Italy’s auto industry manufacturers have felt the pinch of the increasing price of steel. But, as Moro points out, “The price of steel has been increasing for everyone.”

Unlike low-cost countries, where raw material prices are a sizeable portion of overall cost, in Europe, and other developed countries, steel represents a smaller part of operations, due to such factors as labor rates, taxes, research and certifications.

Ravaglioli sells all of its products through wholesalers worldwide. These wholesalers, in turn, offer training, sales support and spare parts for the company’s shop equipment.

Rolando Vezzani demonstrates Corghi's mobile service unit, in which a diesel-powered generator operates a tire changer along with pneumatic tools.

Training also is integral to Corghi, another manufacturer in nearby Correggio, Italy, that produces wheel balancing and alignment equipment, along with vehicle lifts and diagnostic instruments. The manufacturer’s distribution network covers 140 countries.

Corghi’s training center has a plethora of its up-to-date products and is used to certify its distributors. “We are investing a lot of money in the training center,” says Claudio Spiritelli, sales and marketing director. “In some cases, we do not sell a product to a distributor unless he completes full training here.”

Its U.S. distributor is located in Akron, Ohio, and the company, like Ravaglioli, works closely with OEMs to develop products. And technology plays an integral role in development of these product lines, especially with the advent of tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), which changes the way wheel mounting machines are used, says Rolando Vezzani, business development director for Corghi.

The company has an exclusive agreement with Ferrari with its Ferrari Workshop Equipment line, and prides itself on its “touchless, level-less” tire-mounting machines. An automated arm lifts the tire onto the machine, and the technician uses calibrated bead breakers to remove and replace the tire.

“At the end of the day, the technician still has the energy to go home to his family,” says Spiritelli.

Corghi and Ravaglioli represent more than 100 years of business and truly global footprints.

One important aspect of adopting a global mentality is to not take a cookie-cutter approach to any country in which a manufacturer does business. “The important thing to understand is that every market is different,” says Ravaglioli’s Moro.

It may be difficult for U.S, distributors to consider buying from European countries such as Italy due to the weak dollar against the euro, but on the flip side, it’s an advantageous marketplace for U.S. manufacturers who may want to sell products in Europe, Servadei, points out.

The 23rd biennial Autopromotec, which will take place next year, May 20 to 24 in Bologna, is one such event where the U.S. automotive industry and Italy can find some common ground. Once again, the trade show has obtained U.S. Trade Fair Certification by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and show organizers expect an increase in the number of U.S. exhibitors next year.

Autopromotec is owned by its member exhibitors, and the trade show’s organizers do not make a profit.

Look for more coverage from Italy in upcoming issues of Aftermarket Business, Motor Age and ABRN.

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