Interview with a friction expert:
Clément de Valon
Executive Vice President Independent Aftermarket at TMD Friction
The automotive industry is currently experiencing extreme challenges, whilst simultaneously preparing for the ever-increasing demands of tomorrow. In an interview with Clément de Valon, Executive Vice President Independent Aftermarket at TMD Friction, we discuss electrification of the car parc population in Europe and worldwide and how TMD Friction is positioning itself to address this key trend, which will lead to changes in behavior throughout the aftermarket chain in the future.
Clément de Valon is a highly experienced top executive in the independent aftermarket (IAM), having worked in the industry for more than 27 years. Over this time, he has developed extensive expertise in sales and marketing in the sector. More recently, he has worked within various management positions for renowned automotive suppliers such as Valeo and Garrett. During his 17 years working at Valeo, Clément had a key focus on the international aftermarket, including leading global activities for IAM wiper blades. Following this, he moved to Garrett where he was responsible for the company’s IAM turbocharger business unit. In 2019, Clément joined TMD Friction to lead the global aftermarket business.
Previous roles have seen Clément in direct contact with global aftermarket customers in more than 100 countries, as well as effectively leading and coordinating the work of sales and marketing teams around the world. This experience has given him a deep understanding of sales, marketing and intercultural cooperation.
Which trends are the key market drivers in your view?
“Our industry is currently facing some of the biggest challenges and changes than we have ever experienced in the last decade. Current challenges, such as the energy crisis, climate change, supply chain problems, a shortage of skilled workers and escalating costs have already triggered drastic changes.
In addition, there are new market participants, digital services and e-commerce, which are further increasing competition in the medium and long-term. Moreover, the participants in the market must keep up with ongoing technological changes that are being developed at a much faster pace – especially e-mobility. The increasing electrification of the car parc will of course alter the entire value chain in the aftermarket. Depending on the region, around 45 percent of new vehicle purchases could be electric vehicles by 2035. However, presently it is difficult to make a reliable forecast, as we are only in 2023 and it is conceivable that new solutions will change that forecast significantly.
The aim is clear: emission-free mobility. Supporting this vision is very important to us. We therefore have to act responsibly throughout the world in shaping a sustainable industry that has a positive impact on the environment and society, and anchor that approach firmly in the corporate strategy of TMD Friction. In 2022, for example, TMD Friction recycled more than 4,000 tonnes of abrasive material created by mechanical processing of the friction material and reduced waste from the production process by 50 percent. It is no longer just a question of offering the right product for the right cars. We must ensure that, in everything we do, we reduce our CO2 emissions – particularly in the areas of production and the supply chain. As a global manufacturer, it is our responsibility to ensure that a product does not travel twice around the world before it ends up in the workshop.”
How is TMD Friction supporting its customers in relation to electrification of the vehicle fleet?
“Electric mobility creates a new set of challenges for the aftermarket industry to overcome as it will undoubtedly change costs, demand and the work involved in maintenance and repairs. One thing we are certain will remain, is the need for vehicles to have safe and effective brake systems, which will continue to be an important area of business for independent workshops in future – even if the significant self-braking effect of electric engines means that simply taking your foot off the accelerator is enough for small decelerations.
Utilising our friction expertise, we are making a significant contribution to ensure the aftermarket remains competitive, including electrically powered vehicles. As market leaders, we continually strive to be at the forefront of new technology. In fact, our premium brand, Textar, covers 99% of the European fleet of electric vehicles and hybrids with its aftermarket programme.
What role does the OE know-how play for the fine-tuning of materials?
Customers in both the aftermarket and in original equipment manufacturing work with us because we ‘live and breathe’ brakes – day and night. As an OE supplier, we are familiar with the requirements of vehicle manufacturers when it comes to brake components for electric vehicles and are one of the few manufacturers able to carry out the necessary fine-tuning of materials. This plays an even bigger role in e-cars than in those with combustion engines: on the one hand, the pad must not be so aggressive that noise is created, but on the other hand, it must be sufficiently aggressive to deliver good braking performance and to work in harmony with the brake disc without generating deposits and corrosion.
That might not sound particularly exciting – but over 100 years of material expertise and development experience goes into it, together with a team of friction experts who can combine precisely the right raw materials from a choice of 797 to achieve the optimal results every time. In the last 30 years, we have mixed more than 50,000 formulations.”
Will brake repairs and maintenance have to surrender their large share of workshop turnover because e-vehicles cause less wear on brakes?
“I think the market is currently facing many different trends, the impacts of which no one can foresee completely at this stage. Yes, electrification will have an effect. That’s clear, but it’s also clear that brake pads will still need to be replaced, even in an electric vehicle. The extent to which the wear on brake pads will be reduced over the entire service life of a vehicle is difficult to forecast. We have figures that suggest it could be by 50 percent; but other forecasts indicate a reduction of only 20%. In my view, it will depend very heavily on the vehicle and on driving behaviour. We also think that there will be many other reasons besides wear for replacing brake pads and discs – rust, for example.
Then there’s another aspect. Electric mobility will not arrive overnight. As I said, 45 percent of the new cars bought in 2035 could be electric. But there are 340 million vehicles on the roads of Europe with an average age of 12 years. It will be a long time before the car parc is entirely electric. This makes it difficult to assess what this trend will ultimately mean for workshops. But brake pads are important for the safety of all road users – so we are certain that maintaining and repairing them will still be a factor for car drivers in 2030 and 2040, irrespective of the engine driving their vehicle.
We therefore see brake solutions continuing to be a profitable area of business for workshops, and we are sure that our expertise will be in demand for a long time to come.”