We talk to the industry experts in the automotive scene, so you can put faces to the names of the companies to approach for your ongoing, or upcoming, projects. This instalment sees Warrik Skulve from Battery Town tell us all about the battery industry and upcoming trends.
The Motorhood: The Battery Town name has been around for a long time, what is your involvement in it?
I’ve been the Battery Town marketing manager for nine years. I was HCB Technologies' [Battery Town’s parent company] marketing manager and Battery Town marketing manager, but we’ve split the positions as the business has grown. My role is to manage the Battery Town Group initiatives, product shows, training, nationwide marketing, and to help appoint and set up any new locations.
How many branches are there now?
There are currently just on 100 branches.
So that would make you the largest chain of battery retailers in the country?
That’s right; we are the largest battery retail network group, and the largest auto electrical network group.
Impressive! Does Battery Town offer just the general A-B car-type batteries?
We’ve got a battery to suit just about every vehicle in New Zealand. We do anything from a motorcycle battery up to a specialist truck or tractor battery, as well as high-performance batteries, deep cycles, lightweight race car batteries and the common starting battery.
How about industrial batteries?
Battery Town branches work on a wide range of vehicles — some do specialize in auto electrical service to automotive, marine, commercial, or RV, but most have to know all batteries and vehicles. They do any car, truck, boat, or motorcycle that comes in. Some do purely heavy industrial. If you’re in the city, chances are you’ll work on cars, or maybe industrial, but the ones in provincial towns are more of an all-round, one-stop shop for batteries, vehicle electrics, and specialist diagnosis.
It’s probably a bit difficult to make batteries seem appealing, since most people see them as a grudge purchase?
You have to be ahead of the game with product, as cars are changing all the time. Some people want to build a car, so they need a special battery that’ll work from that point of view, or they need a sealed battery if it’s going into a race car, but the average person just wants to start a vehicle. Batteries need to match their application; not getting the right battery for the right application can result in what looks like a battery fault, but isn’t. That’s where Battery Town dealers are great, as they’re auto electricians and experts in auto electrical and battery type fitment, so you’re buying from an expert. It’s our role to supply them and train them with that specialist battery knowledge.
That’s very different from the large-format retail stores that sell batteries.
Definitely. People might think that a specialist will cost them more, but Battery Town is actually really well priced. A large chain retailer may sell oils, wiper blades, and other stuff at a great price, but its batteries aren’t necessarily cheaper. Battery Town stores also have great product in the Hella Endurant range and the other batteries that we choose. Choosing the best-quality batteries that last, and a range to suit the New Zealand market, is what our direction has been.
If someone wants a difficult battery, how long would it take to get there from head office?
Everything is overnight now. Sometimes — for example, if we have to get it from Auckland to the South Island — it might take two days, but we generally like to spread our stock out so customers can get it overnight. Most Battery Towns also carry a good stock of the more common batteries.
What brands do you stock?
Battery Town is a major seller of the Hella Endurant brand, but also stocks performance brands such as Odyssey, Optima, and Fullriver. We stock a motorcycle line, too — Motobatt — as well as the Deka brand from the States. We also carry batteries for things like little power spotlights and the like, for which we offer the Synergy brand. We will also be launching the new Varta European range of batteries.
Is anything coming up that’s new and exciting in batteries?
The common automotive battery principal hasn’t changed much in the 155 years since the lead acid battery was invented. What has happened is that cars have changed significantly, so you’ll see more going from a wet flooded battery to an AGM [absorbent glass matt] battery, similar to an Optima or Odyssey. You’re also getting new technology of Enhanced Flooded Batteries, for the start–stop cars. Going into 2017 onwards, about 50 per cent of the world’s vehicles will be start-stop and will require an AGM or a special flooded type battery, so the biggest change has probably happened in the last five years, and will continue a bit longer, depending on how technology goes.
Is there any other point of difference with Battery Town?
We are the local specialist in batteries and auto electrical; we would also have the largest range nationwide. A large part of our Battery Town business is that we offer a nationwide warranty, so if you buy a battery in Auckland, but need help in Invercargill, you can pop into Battery Town there. That gives people peace of mind, as does knowing that they’re dealing with an auto electrical expert. Some surveys showed that up to a third of all batteries replaced are done so when the battery is not actually the problem. There could be something wrong with the vehicle or the application, but people then replace the battery, and the new one ends up with the same issue, so then people see an expert, such as Battery Town, but they’ve already spent money they didn’t need to.
Great to hear; that’s the type of people we prefer dealing with. Thanks for your time.
If you're keen to get in touch with Battery Town with any queries, you can call 0800 566 667, or visit batterytown.co.nz.
You can pick up a print or digital copy of the magazines — NZV8 Issue No. 126 and NZ Performance Car Issue No. 227 — this article was featured in below: