Lumileds’ Vice President Aftermarket, Steven Zimmer, explains why distribution long-term partners are key to the globalization of automotive lighting sales.
How is Lumileds placed within the automotive lighting sector?
Lumileds is a global company that makes and markets innovative lighting solutions for the automotive, mobile, IoT and illumination sectors. All our automotive products are of original-equipment quality, offering best-in-class performance for carmakers and the aftermarket worldwide. We’ve a strong track record of innovation as the inventors of Xenon headlights, pioneers in the use of halogen and today we lead the way in LED bulbs. Lumileds develops, manufactures and distributes Philips automotive lighting products. You’ll find our bulbs in every third car around the world, which puts us at the forefront of this market.
What are the main challenges brought by the globalization of automotive lighting sales?
In an increasingly global market, consistency is essential. That means having a unified approach to customers, wherever they’re based, which is why we’ve harmonized our ways of working with them internationally (while keeping some local flexibility) and aligned our products, services and pricing. Underpinning it all is a channel-management strategy built on a close-knit group of strong regional leaders.
How is cross-channel distribution affecting the market?
The automotive aftermarket and consumer channels are changing faster than ever before. Historical boundaries that used to govern our industry are disappearing in many countries. In practice, this means that everyone seems to be selling everywhere. I think we need to get back to basics and have a clear understanding of what we sell to whom, and why. If we focus on those fundamentals, channel-related matters like marketing activities, product strategy, pricing and services become more straightforward.
How do you choose your international distribution partners?
We’ve been in the automotive lighting business for decades in most markets, so we have long-standing relationships with many of our customers. When it comes to choosing new partners or distributors, we value long-term potential above quick wins. We often end up working with distributors who share our belief in the importance of innovation, customer engagement and sustainable growth.
What kind of relationship do you have with your aftermarket distributors?
Our distribution strategy is based on the principle of being “everywhere but not anywhere”. We ensure full market coverage through capable, like-minded partners. We expect them to be comfortable working with premium, original- equipment quality products and services, and to think long-term. We believe a combined approach with our distribution partners is the best way of convincing installers and users to demand quality parts for their vehicles. This kind of close partnership helps both ourselves as manufacturers and our distributors understand and adapt to a changing market. The bottom line is that we want to operate across the entire automotive aftermarket, whether wholesale, traditional retail or e-commerce.
What qualities do your workforce need?
Globalization and new technologies are making the market ever more complex. With access to information growing fast, it’s vital to have people who can interpret the data, identify key points and act upon them. Also, as the boundaries between sales channels become blurred and e-commerce expands, our staff must be able to see the market as a whole and act early to solve problems before they escalate. Wherever possible, we want our people to find their motivation in supporting our customers’ growth. This translates, for instance, into focusing on sell-out activities rather than the sell-in.
For automotive, mobile, IoT and illumination companies who require innovative lighting solutions, Lumileds is a global leader employing more than 9,000 team members operating in over 65 countries. Lumileds partners with its customers to push the boundaries of light.
To learn more about our portfolio of lighting solutions, visit lumileds.com.