View This Article in Venture Magazine

As they keep automotive clubs on the move, Club Assist is driving a better future for the environment

club assist, the venture magazineAustralia isn’t just home to a suite of the world’s most iconic road movies, it’s a world leader in keeping automobiles on the road. That’s the effort at the heart of Club Assist.

Established in Melbourne in 1992, the company procures, distributes, and installs automotive batteries and parts. Today, Club Assist is wholly owned by the Australian Automotive Clubs, operating in Asia Pacific (APAC) and North America (NA), with a combined activity of 2.2 million batteries. The APAC and North American companies are managed under two separate regions, each with its own management structure and CEO, reporting to one board of directors.

Club Assist APAC generates revenue of $160 million, with automotive batteries as its main source of income. The firm services the Australian and New Zealand auto clubs, which have a combined 10 million members. VENTURE recently chatted with Alex Leombruni, Club Assist’s APAC CEO about the company’s mission and future plans.

In his tenure with Club Assist, Alex has witnessed many changes in the ways motoring clubs operate. “Working with automotive clubs internationally for 18 years, I have observed massive change in the way clubs operate. Clubs have become more agile and diverse, with the progressive clubs providing members with a wider span of service and care.

“Most clubs have acknowledged that road service is a diminishing value proposition to its members which has forced a shift to a more holistic ‘lifestyle’ approach in serving their members,” he said. “E-commerce is changing how we do business, technology will continue to change, and if the clubs don't continue to evolve with the technology, they will become less relevant.” Unsurprisingly, Club Assist’s online capabilities, supported by an agile distribution network, are an important component of its growth strategy.

Club Assist is also working to enter new wholesale markets that will give it access to three million battery sales in Australia and New Zealand. “The support of our business partners, which include Atlas BX, Sebang Global, JCI and East Penn Manufacturing, will be critical to our success,” he explained.

Lead-acid technology is central to Club Assist’s approach. “Automotive, marine, and solar energy storage batteries will be our prime offerings. The addition of solar energy storage solutions for domestic and commercial use represents exciting prospects for the future.”

Innovation is another driver for the ambitious agenda, with Club Assist developing new capabilities to stay ahead of the curve. “The company operates in an industry where technology and the search for clean energy are major disruptors, so developing strong partnerships with commercial, R&D, and government organizations is a key strategic objective. Success will come from combining what we’re good at today, with what we need to be good at tomorrow. Companies that focus solely on one or the other will not survive in the changing business landscape,” he added.

Far from being just a battery supplier, Club Assist is a “battery solutions” integrator, Alex pointed out. “We integrate into the existing club structures and processes inasmuch as, or in little depth as, the clubs require to optimize the mobility services to members.”

Batteries are sourced from the world’s largest battery manufacturers, and tested in Club Assist’s in-house testing and quality assurance facility to make sure they meet OEM specs. “We work closely with the engineering departments of the manufacturers to ensure products are designed and manufactured to meet our customers’ specifications. This is important where climatic conditions may be different and the life of the battery depends on its suitability to withstand hot and cold extremes,” he stressed.

Superior Supply Chain Performance

club assist, the venture magazineIn APAC alone, the company’s robust distribution network services eight automotive clubs, supplying 820,000 batteries to 1,270 locations, covering an area of 7,000 square kilometers.  “Our strict criteria for selecting our manufacturers ensures that we partner with the best in the industry. Interestingly, we source our batteries from the same manufacturers that provide product to BMW and Hyundai,” Alex reported. “Our value proposition relies on the procurement of the battery, of course, but it also relies on the technology and the expertise that enables us to have the right product for the right installation.

“Our relationship with our manufacturers is central to the value we bring to the club network. Our value proposition includes the knowledge and expertise in product engineering derived from our association with manufacturers and R&D organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).”

Excellent products keep that value at peak. “We have a warranty threshold where the cost of anything above the threshold will be borne by our supplier. This ensures the supplier constantly reviews their product quality,” he affirmed.

The company monitors a strict set of KPIs including a “supplier in full on-time” metric that makes sure suppliers stay on agreed-upon delivery schedules. “Our engagement with the suppliers is constant. The relationship extends beyond product procurement, which allows early resolution of potential issues while driving process improvement. This includes participation in supplier projects such as finding ways to better track product through our expansive network or using EDI for a more streamlined process in order fulfilment.”

Power for Tomorrow

club assist, the venture magazineA particular source of pride for the company is its work in the area of energy storage, which Alex described as “our quest to add value to our community by protecting our environment. Preparing society for a shift from fossil fuel and coal-fired energy to cleaner sources is controversial, representing a significant challenge for governments. By leveraging our advanced expertise in lead-acid energy storage, Club Assist will provide energy storage solutions for renewable energy projects. We believe we can best assist the process by making energy storage more affordable and by bringing government and manufacturers together to strategize solutions.”

Club Assist will be partnering with a reputable energy storage firm to deliver energy storage solutions and to improve energy reliability and efficiency.  “Designed by a prominent research organisation, the energy storage system manages the variability of renewable energy to smooth power and shift energy in a safe, reliable, and simple way.  The solution will be powered by a completely new class of advanced lead-acid battery technology,” he noted.

As the company positions itself to lead Australia into the next phase of progress, Club Assist is planning a “renewable energy” symposium in 2019 to bring key players together to discuss and share information about new technologies, new markets, and identify business opportunities within those markets. It’s down the road a bit, but we’ll have more on that as it develops. Stay tuned.