Webasto North America announced the A La Carte Aftermarket Van HVAC Kit-Building System. Webasto's novel, menu-driven approach allows customers to upfit Ford Transit, RAM ProMaster, or Mercedes Sprinter vans with auxiliary HVAC systems faster, while carrying less inventory and all at a lower cost, the company said.
Prior to the A La Carte Aftermarket Van HVAC Kit-Building System, those in the market for auxiliary tie-in heating/cooling or stand-alone HVAC kits for popular commercial van makes and models would have to first obtain a model-specific kit designed to fit that particular vehicle. However, with the popularity of vans and the variety of models out there, chances are that one of the 25 to 30 most popular kits might not be in inventory locally or otherwise readily available, the company said.
“Webasto has been making aftermarket van HVAC kits for years, and we alone made 22 separate systems, each designed to fit the leading van makes and models,” said Mike Cicioni, HVAC application manager. “Our systems work seamlessly, but our distributors had to carry multiples of all 22 kits if they wanted to be stocked and ready to meet the marketplace variables.”
Webasto realized that many of the HVAC components they were using to make their kits were common among varying makes and models, and that others were purpose designed and manufactured. They also realized that unbundling the components might make it easier for body builders, upfitters, and fleets to get what they wanted with more speed and consistency.
“Our objective was to find a way to remove the burden from our customers, enabling them to carry a reduced inventory of the constituent components instead of 22 or more vehicle-specific kits,” said Cicioni. “Essentially, the concept was to provide lower-cost unbundled components that could later be re-bundled, based solely on application and demand.”
Webasto engineers set out to reexamine each system and component in an effort to minimize variability and optimize application performance. As they honed their designs, their technical teams conducted fieldwork with numerous installer groups to understand the way they would approach an installation. They took what they learned and made their designs and process even more streamlined. The new A La Carte Aftermarket Van HVAC Kit-Building System was born.
The approach enables Webasto to cover 90% of the van market with approximately 30 a la carte HVAC components. With Webasto's system, its customers carry less inventory, while increasing their ability to be more responsive to fluctuating demand. The system also puts its customers in a more favorable position to capture a wider variety of work truck applications beyond Webasto's existing van-specific HVAC kits.
Webasto developed a decision tree method that allows virtually anyone to choose the right system components based on answering just eight simple questions. The company is also introducing a product brochure that includes the eight-question product specifier. The questions can be answered by simply marking the brochure and noting the corresponding part numbers. An online configurator is also in the works and it will be compatible with both desktop and mobile devices.
“We've taken a complex task and made it easy for customers to check a few boxes and specify an HVAC system that is precisely optimized for their unique application,” said Matt Wheeler, head of HVAC – light and medium duty. “We did the hard work to make our customers' work easier.”
One of the issues that Webasto's A La Carte Aftermarket Van HVAC Kit-Building System addresses is the common problem of over- or under-specifying of aftermarket HVAC systems. As in the realm of consumer HVAC system purchases, there is often confusion surrounding the correct sizing of an HVAC system required to heat or cool a specific van make and model.
“This can be a matter of inventory, because when someone doesn't have the right system for a specific vehicle, they may recommend something they have in stock,” said Wheeler. “Since that system isn't optimized for that particular vehicle, it's going to be mechanically and electronically overperforming or underperforming from the start, resulting in comfort issues and service and maintenance problems down the road.”
When specified and configured using their unique a la carte method, a Webasto aftermarket HVAC kit will integrate seamlessly with a vehicles factory system. The Webasto system will provide users with optimal auxiliary heating and cooling performance because it is the right size and the right configuration for that particular vehicle and that particular application.
For large-volume customers and specialty on-road vehicle manufacturers, Webasto will still provide the direct support and customized application solutions they've always enjoyed. Webasto's team of experts will deploy to a customer's production facility and after observation, will produce a custom bill of goods as needed.
“We've designed, engineered, and brought to market a system of exceptional quality that is easy to specify and install, and all at a competitive price,” said Wheeler. “Webasto's A La Carte Aftermarket Van HVAC Kit-Building System will quite literally change the status quo in the aftermarket auxiliary van HVAC segment, and that change will be better for everyone involved.”