Auto Windscreens Leader Says Company to Grow by 40 Percent

Chris Thornton

Chris Thornton

Through its acquisition of AA AutoWindshields, United Kingdom-based Auto Windscreens will grow by an estimated 40 percent, increasing its market share to 20 percent, says Chris Thornton, managing director of the company. What makes this deal unique is that the AGRR market in the U.K. has been “depressed” for several years, he adds.

“It’s probably down 10 percent this year, and it was down last year and the year before,” Thornton says. “The market in the U.K., and quite a few European countries, has been fairly depressed. We’ve had relatively benign weather, and we’ve seen a continued decline in incidents of body glass breakage and reduced vehicle crime. There is a contraction going on.

“Other than our acquisition, there hasn’t been a lot of movement of the main players in terms of their relative size and position in the market,” he says. “This deal strengthens our position relative to the others.”

Last year, Auto Windscreens completed 250,000 repair and replacement jobs.

“We are No. 2 in the market [in terms of market share]. … When this opportunity came along to acquire AA AutoWindshields, we took it. I’m really excited by what this means for our company. It’s about continuing our strong growth into the future. An acquisition like this brings a fair amount of growth. We are serious about our position in the U.K. market.”

Though the contracts have been signed, the deal is still undergoing regulatory approval and will likely not close for several months. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

“When the deal is finalized, we will integrate the two businesses into a single national operation trading under the Auto Windscreens name. AA AutoWindshields will cease and the branding will switch over to Auto Windscreens,” he explains.

Management was meeting just today to develop an integration plan for the two staffs. The AA business has 200 in staff and technicians.

“We’ve just started planning about how we’re going to do this,” says Thornton. “We want to ensure we maintain our standards, grow and improve them. We are looking to become a single, stronger more effective organization.”

Looking ahead, Thornton expects continued pressure on the U.K. market in terms of volumes and prices.

“I see those areas continuing to be challenging,” he notes.

Similar to what is occurring in the U.S., there are also significant technological changes on the way. Advanced technology is being integrated into vehicles and this will have an impact on AGRR services.

“Glass is becoming larger and more complex,” Thornton says. “The number of different options fitted into the vehicle continues to grow. We will have more stock for the same volume [of replacements]. Getting the right glass in the supply chain is very important.”

He also pointed to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) as a growth trend to watch.

“Principally this includes camera systems and calibration that is involved when we replace the glass,” according to Thornton. “This is a relatively small area at the moment, probably about 2 percent of our vehicles require calibration, but more vehicles are being fitted with this. And there are very different types of calibration [by OEM]. Some need more manual calibration, some require wheel alignment as well. There are a lot of different consequences this could have on our business. We will be launching a nationwide calibration service next month to fully address this problem.”

In fact, the calibration service isn’t the only new development Auto Windscreens has in store. Thornton says several additional announcements are coming down the pipeline.

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