The first day, as with many trips that require travel, was intended as a "throwaway day" to get sorted at the resort. The STX conference was hosted at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine, Texas. Our Delta Airlines flight from JFK to Dallas was interrupted by extremely poor weather which forced us to land in Oklahoma City.
This worked in our favor as I needed to stop in Oklahoma City to grab my latest acquisition, a Cobalt Blue Porsche Cayman S, which Mike and I then drove from Oklahoma City to Grapevine Texas arriving around 3:30PM.
The sheer size and scale of the venue, as well as the number of people in attendance, illustrated the impact that WorldPac has on our industry. We used the first evening to catch up with Ward Myers of World Pac. Myers has always been a large part of the reason why our relationship with WorldPac continues to be be one of our most successful vendor relationships and I cannot stress enough how accommodating and hospitable he was.
We also had dinner that evening with an old colleague of Mike Delikats from MSpec performance giving us some interesting insights into some of the new tech they are encountering on late model European vehicles as well as some of the pain points. One example is the new style axles offered on BMW F-chassis X-Drive vehicles that are splined externally to the hub. (~ 450ft. lbs)
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The way STX 2018 was structured is as follows: breakfast each morning, followed by 4 hours of class instruction, lunch, 4 more hours of afternoon instruction, a dinner, and a vendor expo each night. Vendors in attendance included Delphi, Vierol, Brembo, Mann, CTA, Liqui Moly, Federal Mogul, ZF, Textar, Behr, Nissens, Idemitsu, Akebono, Bosch, Denso, Glyco, CRP, Bilstein, and CTA just to name a few. It was amazing to put faces to names that I have been emailing for years such as Nick Maxwell at Delphi, Chad Foote at Vierol and many others.
It was also great to make new connections, and learn of new products coming to market that we should be preparing to offer. Manufacturers such as Brembo, Viaco, ZImmermann, TRW etc and introducing new products that we will be able to bring to market later this year. Manufacturers were very candid with issues they were encountering, for example I had a great lunch with Victor Reinz reps from Germany who were trying to wrap their heads around several complaints related to repeat gasket failures in BMW N-Series applications after several product revisions. I advised them that we see the issues stemming not from their product but from the incredibly common crankcase breather issues these engines are plagued with.
Collectively, Michael and I attended 40 hours of classes and reviewed over 1200 pages of course material in the three days we were there.
Our classes included ZF Race Engineering Performance Suspension and Powertrain, Mercedes Diesel Engine Diagnosis and Repair, BMW Valvetrain Technology, Unlocking The Potential Of Your Scan Tool, 2009 to present Porsche Type 970 Panamera, BMW/Mini B38/36/48/46 Engines, BMW Motorsports 4, BMW New Engine Technology 6 & 8 Cylinders, and Introduction to ODIS for VW/Audi.
Here are some highlights from a few of the courses:
ZF Race Engineering Performance Suspension and Powertrain -
This class taught by Dirk Fuchs was a great introduction to ZF performance products and the marked difference between performance products and products engineered for racing. The information offered in this class is exactly what our online support team would need to support our customers who purchase Sachs performance products. Dirk also touched on common installation errors/complaints which struck an immediate cord with me as some of the more common complaints mirrored issues that our customers are currently experiencing. A good example of this are complaints related to inoperable transmissions after SPEC clutch installation.
Mercedes Diesel Engine Diagnosis and Repair -
Mercedes Diesel vehicles represent an underserved niche in the Mercedes market. These vehicles have unique equipment and problems and they primarily pertain to the systems responsible for emissions control. The emission control system contains a myriad of sensors to monitor the efficiency of the system and they are all failure prone. These are definitely products we want to make sure we are offering in our catalog. Information gathered in this class also clarified the relationships between certains parts and systems and the importance of merchandising those parts together. For example glow plugs and modules should always be replaced as a set to prevent repeat issues as bad glow plugs can fry modules and vice versa. The glow plug strategy on these vehicles is one where the plugs are almost always running.
2009 to Present Porsche Type 970 Panamera -
Although this course was primarily designed to be an introduction to the 970 chassis, the key take away for our organization is to understand the logic of how parts are installed so that we can better serve our customers. Understanding the installation of the part can protect the organization from exposure to repeat returns. Two examples of this are the installation of headlights or even brake rotors. As crazy as it sounds incorrect rotor installation can very easily lead to an abs or stability control light on the dash. These vehicles have an electric parking brake that uses electronically controlled brake shoes that require calibration and adaptation after install. Even 1mm of tolerance could cause issues if the customer is not following the correct installation procedures.
BMW/Mini B38/36/48/46 Engines
Let me start by saying it seems that every procedure down to a drive belt job on these new generation engines seems to require a special tool and these engines are throw away appliances when large problems crop up. Customers with these engines will change their oil and filters and shops will likely tackle everything else. Uninformed customers that modify their vehicles are in for major headaches, something as simple as an intake upgrade could cook their turbochargers.
Over the next few days, I'll be taking the information gathered at the expo and begin rolling it out to various departments within the company so that we can begin to act on it. I will be taking the lead on training my department (service) as well as working with Mike Rivera to go over the new information obtained that would be relevant to his department (catalog).
Thank you for giving Michael and I the opportunity to represent FCP Euro at the expo, and we look forward to the next one!