Andre Sobottka is a member of the MEYLE AG board, in charge of sales, marketing and communications. He has gained vast experience in his career, which has included various leading positions in marketing, sales and business management at Philips, Honeywell and Federal-Mogul, where he was managing director North Europe. In today’s AMN Executive Interview, Sobottka talks about the major rebranding initiative MEYLE recently undertook and the inspiration behind it.
This past fall, MEYLE launched a significant brand revamp, including a logo refresh and new website. Why was this the right time to refresh the company’s image and what kind of response have you seen in the marketplace?
In almost 60 years, our company has made a successful journey from being a distributor to being the brand-manufacturer MEYLE. After all those years, it was about time to sharpen our brand image and adapt a modern brand identity that adjusts to the requirements of our customers and the market. Our new brand identity reflects our evolution within the years perfectly. Instead of a revolution, the relaunch of the logo and brand design has been an evolution – moving forward, adapting a new brand identity, changing the logo and brand design without losing our origin and tradition.
We received very positive feedback to our new brand design and new slogan, “DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND.” Our logo and the design was still recognized by our customers and partners, some of them couldn’t even point out exactly what has been changed, but did recognize a refreshed and modern MEYLE design. Another proof that the evolution was a great success.
As part of the brand refresh, you also unveiled a new tagline, which you just mentioned: “DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND.” Tell us about this and how it best represents MEYLE to the marketplace.
With our new slogan, DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND, we clearly express our philosophy from both the driver’s and the workshop’s perspective. From the driver’s perspective, we are all passionate drivers who want solid performance from our cars and reliable cars. These are the very same things that a technician wants to give a customer when performing service on a customer’s car. So the slogan explains exactly what we, and our distributor partners, are all working for everyday – making sure every driver can rely on MEYLE products, feeling safe and having the opportunity to use the products for a long time. This is nothing new to us, with this slogan we simply put into words what we already did for several years, offering reliable products with the best quality, service and cooperation based on strong partnerships. MEYLE is dedicated to our long-standing relationship with our distributor partners. We see them as an important asset in our mutual business.
Our MEYLE-HD product line is a great example of our technical improvements: For MEYLE-HD, we connect technical know-how and our manufacturing expertise with information for why vehicles fail. Based on information from TÜV (German Technical Control Board), from recall statistics, as well as media and market information from workshops and other technical partners, MEYLE engineers in Germany identify parts in vehicles which become conspicuous on account of frequent early wear. On the basis of their findings, our engineers develop technical improvements for the respective weaknesses. To us, this very close and intense exchange with the workshops is very important to identify current issues and topics within the market. We listen and use that information for improvements. We give a four-year guarantee on our MEYLE-HD parts that have a far longer service life.
The new slogan, DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND, fits perfectly here; both workshops and drivers benefit and get parts with a longer service life for their customers and their cars.
For those who may not be as familiar with the MEYLE name, can you give us a brief history of the company and your international footprint?
Our company was founded in July 1958 – back then under the name Wulf Gaertner Autoparts. The company founder, Wulf Gaertner, spent several years living and working in South America in the early 1950s, where as an enthusiastic amateur racer he experienced first-hand how difficult it can be to find top-grade automotive replacement parts. Ultimately, this was what inspired him to found the export business, which to the present day meets the growing demand for premium quality automotive spare parts made in Germany.
In 1995, we acquired the product brand MEYLE, which marked the start of the evolution of our business model from exporter to now brand manufacturer. Now we are fully dedicated to our brand MEYLE.
To further focus on our brand MEYLE, we decided to sell our American subsidiary IMC in 2014. This allowed us to continue our path from a classic dealer to an automotive supplier in the independent aftermarket for our brand, MEYLE. We will also continue to focus on our own production plants. We manufacture parts and own our own production sites. Our production is certified by ISO/TS 16949. This means we produce parts that completely fulfill OEM production standards, enabling us to also produce our MEYLE-HD parts, which are even better than OE. Since January 2016, we are delivering MEYLE-ORIGINAL steering and suspension parts for the MORGAN Motor Company. Morgan is Great Britain’s most exclusive automobile manufacturer.
Today, we operate in 120 countries worldwide, having international representation, for example, in North America, Great Britain, Spain, France and China. In total, we employ 1,000 people worldwide, comprising employees from 26 nationalities. To serve our customers all around the world, we offer almost all of our publications and content, on our website meyle.com, in eight different languages.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges you experience being an international supplier today?
Being an international supplier means dealing with different markets everyday, which comes with different opportunities and challenges. First, there is a strong market potential worldwide, offering the opportunity to expand and strengthen MEYLE and the product range all over the world. Being successful in the international context means constantly watching the different markets, analyzing them, getting to know the demands and cultures and, in the end, transferring it into the right measures and actions. To make sure everyone understands our messages and values, we need to speak with one voice and clearly state, what our brand and company represents. With “DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND” we accomplish that. It’s easy to understand in all cultures, remains in one’s consciousness and delivers our values perfectly.
What challenges do you see for the international markets in the next few years?
Successfully working as a manufacturing company in the global marketplace has always been challenging. Our company has been doing this since 1958. Constantly watching and analyzing the international markets is one of our most important tasks and challenges in the international business environment. Changes may be caused by a various range of reasons, such as social and economic situations of a country, politics or financial aspects, which may have an effect on our activities. Another important aspect here is to consider the different cultures and values, making sure to choose measures which will work in the international context and make sure to point out our brand promise – being “DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND.” We will continue to sell our brand to all customers because market demand drives choice by consumers for quality products.
You were recently tapped to be a Tier 1 supplier to luxury carmaker Morgan. How do partnerships like this help your business?
Strong partnerships are important and necessary in international business to strengthen our position in these markets by expanding and developing new segments with local partners and their structures.
Our cooperation with the Morgan Motor Co. underlines our specifications as an OEM automotive parts manufacturer. Being one of Morgan’s Tier 1 suppliers is testimony to our uncompromising commitment to quality. Our business focus will remain on the aftermarket, but being the sourcing partner of an OEM company is a great opportunity for us to apply our extensive expertise while generating new insights. Developing a partnership like this helps MEYLE improve our own products, learn new topics, markets and drive specifications.
In addition, Morgan also profits from our know-how. MEYLE engineers have been included in the design project from the onset by supporting Morgan with their extensive engineering expertise. Encouraged by the joint development work, there is a possibility that MEYLE will be supplying other components for the Aero 8 model in the future. We may also start collaborating with Morgan on other models.
What’s next for MEYLE in 2017?
Last year, we took another major step to strengthen our brand. In 2016, we founded the MEYLE AG, with effect from January 1, 2017, all operations has been transferred to MEYLE AG with Wulf Gaertner Autoparts operating as a holding company. Both MEYLE AG and Wulf Gaertner Autoparts AG will continue to be a fully family owned businesses. With this step, we set another clear message for MEYLE as a distinct brand, underlining our commitment to the brand and making it easier for everyone to understand who we are and what we stand for. We can now say “We are MEYLE.”
Of course, DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND will be a main topic for us in the future. The roll-out of our new brand identity and slogan last year has already been a great success, now we need to make sure to transfer the slogan and its meaning to our target groups and intensify the dialogue with our customers as well as the workshops and end consumers. Therefore, we will increase our activities in online marketing and social media. Besides our Facebook, Instagram profile and MEYLE TV USA YouTube channel, we also offer a newsletter for all of our customers to give an overview on news and highlights from MEYLE every six weeks. Moreover, the new slogan will not show in communication only, it will also lead to some new products and services, proving once more, why MEYLE is DRIVER’S BEST FRIEND!