Installation instructions and videos are very popular

BILSTEIN conducts workshop survey on the subject of air suspension modules

Air suspension modules are becoming more and more present in the street scene. Whereas 20 years ago only the Mercedes-Benz S-Class was able to offer this high-tech solution, other car manufacturers have long since caught up. More and more vehicle categories are also affected, such as large SUVs. The technology is now even available in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The majority of vehicles already equipped with air suspension modules are still relatively new and are mainly serviced in the authorised service centres. Sooner or later, however, they will “dribble” into the free enterprises for a fair value repair. But how well do they feel prepared? BILSTEIN, a pioneer in air suspension modules; as well as a leading supplier in the OE and series replacement business in this segment, wanted to know exactly what was going on. In the second half of 2018, the company thus launched a representative survey with successful telephone interviews with 200 workshops. On board: the market research institute puls, whom specialise in automotive topics. The results are now available and BILSTEIN would like to use the knowledge gained to prepare independent workshops for the growth market of the future.

E-Class estate S211 already offers great potential today
The somewhat older E-Class estate S211 with air-suspended rear axle already offers serious potential due to its widespread use – for example in the taxi industry. The model was therefore one of the focal points of the workshop survey. After all, 40.5% of the companies surveyed that originated from the Bosch, ATR, and Top 300 systems have already replaced or repaired air suspension modules on this model. Interesting: Workshops with experience of this model expected more problems when repairing air suspension modules than companies without this concrete background. BILSTEIN itself considers the replacement of these modules to be rather uncritical, provided that some tips and information are observed.

Hints for avoiding installation errors
In general, a vehicle must never be completely lowered onto a pressure less air suspension module, otherwise it will suffer irreparable damage. Experience with complaints shows that components sent in as defective were mainly damaged by installation errors. An astounding fact: in some of these cases, the extremely important assembly instructions always enclosed with BILSTEIN products were apparently in the box untouched. But at least these seem to be isolated cases. After all, according to the latest survey, 77% of garages want exactly these documents as support from the respective manufacturer. Training videos (41%) and training courses (19%) are somewhat lower in the ranking, but quite popular. The fact that live training is falling somewhat in favour is probably due to the small time budget, especially for smaller companies. On average, the 200 participants in the survey employed 5.2 people in the workshop and 9.3 people in the company as a whole.

Video tutorials and live training
In practice, BILSTEIN’s support services in this area are well received, and the video sector in particular is growing steadily: YouTube tutorials are available on the Internet for many car models: Alternatively, the corresponding videos can often also be found in the TecDoc-based ordering systems of wholesalers. It is also possible to call up personal product instructions from the company’s sales force. BILSTEIN’s experts also offer their partners – both workshops and dealers – free in-house training, consisting of a theoretical and a practical part. The topics offered include damper installation, damage analysis and new BILSTEIN products. In addition, a factory tour and helpful tips for customer advice are offered.

Educational work and remanufactured old parts
In any case, BILSTEIN considers the findings of the study to be extremely valuable for providing even better support to workshops in the future. But it’s also about raising awareness – for example on the subject of remanufactured air suspension modules, which despite their popularity should be viewed critically. BILSTEIN points out that these components no longer offer all the functionalities of the original – for example, an originally actively controlled system becomes a passive one. In addition, used shock absorbers are fitted in remanufactured air suspension modules, which have often already been used for many thousands of kilometres. Nevertheless, a good fifth of respondents could imagine working with a leading provider of remanufactured modules. Overall, however, scepticism prevailed on this issue. Aftermarket products from BILSTEIN, on the other hand, generated the greatest confidence immediately after the factory solution and enjoyed a correspondingly high degree of recognition. After all, the company is also active as an OE supplier to the automotive industry and offers identical high quality in the aftermarket.

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