Lee Jacobs, Global Product and Technical Product Director at Hartridge, recently released a publication in CAT magazine which highlights how high pressure common rail is currently at its peak volume within the aftermarket and the significant revenue opportunities that are available today for workshops and garages.
He also explains how the in-depth technical knowledge previously required for diagnostics/repair has been incorporated into the Hartridge machine architecture coupled with an affordable price point opens this opportunity to more than just a specialist fuel systems workshop.
For the second time in 20 years we face a major paradigm shift in the automotive fuel systems sector. Up to the late 1990’s few motorists considered diesel as the fuel system of choice for their cars.
Then, suddenly everything changed. Diesel offered us hot-hatch performance combined with 40+ mpg. Fast forward to today and diesel is out of favour again, at least as far as the Government is concerned. ‘Dirty, dirty diesel’, they say.
In 2016, new diesel registrations hit its peak and reached almost 50% of the vehicle parc. In the 5 years prior growth was still strong and went from almost 15 million vehicles to over 18 million. Source: IHS Automotive.
However, while diesel was enjoying its second decade of unrivalled success a new generation of direct high pressure injection petrol engines was emerging.
A trend for downsizing cylinder capacity accompanied by advances in assisted induction technology was starting to deliver much improved fuel economy combined with torquey punchy diesel-style performance.
The latest data illustrates how things have changed in just a couple of years. After 2016 the number of new diesel vehicle registrations declined sharply from its peak of roughly 800,000 to just over 500,000 in 2018.
Similarly, GDi (gasoline direct injection) registrations have grown each year since 2006, rising sharply in the last 5 years, forecasting to hit over 1 million by 2020. By then diesel will only account for roughly 400,000 new vehicles. Source: IHS Automotive
However, there is not the same motivation to ditch diesel as there was to embrace it 20 years ago and it is sure to survive for a long time.
Even amidst various emissions scandals we know and trust the performance, reliability, and fuel efficiency of oil-burners. They have even managed to make 6 cylinder, high performance versions sound great.
In fact the opportunities for diesel repair have never been better. OE production volumes may be declining but the size of the parc at 4+ years old is now at its peak in the aftermarket.
Common Rail Growth?
Yes, absolutely. The technological advancements for GDI are extremely similar to CR diesel. In simple terms, the fuel delivery pressure is achieved by intensifying it through a remote pump into a shared rail assembly. Each injector is positioned within the cylinder head to inject directly into the combustion chamber at high pressure to achieve a more complete and efficient burn.
Therefore both Common Rail diesel and Common Rail petroleum (better known as GDI) fuel systems share the same technology principals. More petrol engines now use this system as opposed to the older port fuel injection type.
As the technology advances, so will the complexity of injectors to improve the efficiency of combustion. Tighter tolerances, higher pressures and more injector control will result in smarter injectors, just like today’s latest common rail diesel technology.
New Market Opportunities for Diesel and Petrol Common Rail
As established, the diesel parc is aging and to an extent being slowly replaced by GDi. It is impossible to know where things will end up, considering the potential growth in hybrid technology. When markets change, so does the opportunity to respond to its drivers and create new business. This is the time where new market opportunities are created by early adopters.
Diesel - For the workshop that is looking to replace revenue from ever-diminishing returns from their service and repair business, it has never been easier to get into diesel. It is not as crazy an idea as you might first think. Many millions of common rail diesel vehicles exist and will do so for a long time coming.
At Hartridge we have recently made huge advancements in our technological approach. Our new injector test machines are very easy to use, fully automatic and remove the technical knowledge requirements to become a fuel system specialist. We’ve captured all the know-how and embedded it as standard into the functionality of our machines.
Our new Sabre series of Common Rail machines are built on a unique & patented platform that offers generalist workshops with no fuel system knowledge, the opportunity to capitalise on a vast aftermarket. With relatively low market entry costs it is now possible to get in on some of the action previously reserved for only those that had invested heavily in training, equipment & facilities. Furthermore, with 2700bar pressure capability the platform is future proofed.
We are not talking about OE level repairs here. Some failed diesel injectors will always require a complete re-build by highly skilled professionals in a specialist clean-room. However, by using genuine parts and following the Hartridge test process it is possible to offer a low-cost alternative to the motorist. This is hugely valuable when, due to price sensitivity, they are not happy to buy new injectors.
The key starts and ends with the ability to accurately test an injector’s performance comprehensively (outside of the vehicle) and capture the results in a clear and easy to understand report.
Why is this? Well, the evolution in CR technology, whether petrol or diesel, means diagnosing its performance is far more than “does it spray” and “how much”. Depending on the injector technology inside, which varies greatly, testing them correctly can be very complex.
A few of the critical performance aspects for testing Euro 5/6 injectors include measuring the response time of the injection event which is fundamental to ensure optimised combustion. The latest emissions standards have also mandated injection pressures in excess of 2000bar and often require advanced closed loop control technologies. It is essential that these critical measurements and control techniques are replicated by the test bench.
GDi - When it comes to GDi, there isn’t a repair market, yet, as pressures are not currently at a level that makes injectors susceptible to failure. However, this is certain to happen if GDi development continues on its forecasted trajectory.
Instead, GDi injectors tend to carbonize quite quickly and become contaminated with the lacquers and bi-products inherent with petroleum combustion. Therefore there is the opportunity to accurately diagnose GDi performance and ascertain if contamination is causing the motorist to experience problems. The principals are exactly the same as testing diesel injectors. Then, by providing a full test report, the injectors can be ruled in or ruled out as the cause of the motorists’ woes.
The next stage in the value proposition is to offer a fast and easy solution to restore a GDi injector’s lost performance before retesting it and providing a new report to show the improvements made to its function. It is important to state that there are no repair parts for GDi injectors currently, but instead, fundamental to the restoration process is ultrasonic cleaning and replacing a number of key service parts.
To support the fast growing GDi market Hartridge has developed a cost effective solution dedicated for testing GDi injectors, the Excalibur GDi Master. This machine is developed on the same platform as the Sabre CRi, but has been specifically tailored for diagnosing the latest GDi injector technology.
Cash is King
Today, many traditional revenue streams for workshops are in decline or face pressures where margins have to be cut to compete. However, by offering motorists fast, accurate and comprehensive fuel injector diagnostics a great profitable revenue opportunity is unlocked. Add to this the ability to service or repair injectors at a lower cost to the motorist, then for the workshop the profit made is far greater than simply replacing the injectors. This is a genuine win-win scenario.