Understand the New A/C Standard from SAE to Sell the New J2788 Equipment

Hopefully by now, all the automotive distribution outlets are aware of the impending change in refrigerant recovery, recycle and recharge equipment. For those not yet aware, a short review is in order.

The Society of Automotive Engineers, the Mobile Air Conditioning Society Worldwide, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Improved Mobile Air Conditioning 30/50 project in 2005. The project's fundamental purpose is to cost-effectively design next-generation mobile A/C systems with fewer leak points, and improve service procedures to minimize the refrigerant emissions of R-134a.

Because of this partnership, new A/C systems are becoming physically smaller and require increased charge accuracy. Accordingly, tighter standards are in place for automotive A/C recovery, recycle and recharge equipment. The new standard, SAE J2788, drives four new requirements the shop owners and technicians need to understand. They are:

  1. 95-percent recovery efficiency.
  2. Charge accuracy within a 1/2oz.
  3. Mandatory filter changes.
  4. Minimal cross-contamination of system oil in machines equipped with an oil-injection feature.

There are other requirements that OEMs must meet, but they are invisible to the shop owner or technician.

Though the EPA has not made an official announcement, as of this writing, manufacturers can produce the current models through Dec. 31, 2007, and sales will be permitted through March 2008. After that, the previous generation of equipment cannot be registered with the EPA. Any A/C service equipment in a shop before that date will be “grandfathered” and allowed through the useful life of the machine.

The task now is to get shop owners to see how this standard will help them be more profitable with equipment meeting J2788.

Understand the new standard

A shop owner will ask many questions about the differences between the old standard and the new standard. An informed sales representative can help the shop owner make the best decision for his business.

Under the old SAE J2210 standard, recovery efficiency and charge accuracy were never requirements. The recovery, recycle and recharge machines were only required to achieve a vacuum level of 4” of Mercury and meet a shop safety specification. The recovery efficiency mandated in the new standard means pulling more of the customer's refrigerant out of the vehicle and therefore using less virgin refrigerant when recharging.

Also, older systems were larger and more tolerant of over/undercharging — but today's vehicles require high charge accuracy. The best charge accuracy that could be claimed by older generation service machines is within 1oz., a 3-percent error on a 2lbs. system. That same charge accuracy on a 14oz. system is more than twice the error at 7 percent. Using the older equipment could mean extra time in the service bay as the technician adds and subtracts refrigerant to get optimal cooling in the cabin.

More time in the service bay means less profit for the shop.

Understand the customer's needs

Another opportunity for the sales representative to help his customer make an informed decision is the return on investment. The basic equation, profit divided by cost of machine equals number of services required to pay for machine, has not changed, but pointing out new features and benefits and tying that into increased profitability will be more effective.

The shop owner who is looking to get started in the business or has a seasonal business would certainly appreciate an easy-to-use menu-driven user interface. In a bigger shop, reclassifying the task will allow the expert technician to spend more time on tougher problems. An automatic, programmable machine that can recover, recycle, vacuum-leak check and recharge allows the technician to perform another task without attending to the machine until the job is finished.

Sell on value

Selling on price is an effective short-term strategy. After awhile it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain profitability without cutting back somewhere. In a competitive market, one must be able to show the value of a specific brand over another. Take the unique features and benefits of the product; assign a value per service to that feature, then multiply by the number of services performed each month and year. Turning the product into dollars actually helps sell the overall profitability.

For example, a new feature on the Robinair 34788 is the optional vehicle database, which provides a searchable database by year, make, model, and A/C configuration right at the vehicle. No longer will the technician have to leave the work area to access an external data system. The database includes refrigerant charge amount, oil type and capacity and replacement oil values when removing and replacing components. This can save a significant amount of time by keeping the technician at the vehicle instead of searching an external database. See chart for translating features into a value to show a potential buyer.
The value of any feature is always an open discussion. However, if you are with your customer and ask him to assign the value per service, I think the results will surprise both of you.

Finally, putting the wrong product in the customer's hands will only be a daily reminder that his expectations were not met. Assess the skill level of the user. Determine the frequency of the service in the shop. Determine if this will be a frontline piece of equipment or a backup to cover peak seasonal demand. Learning that information upfront will help you guide the buyer to make the right decision, making you a valuable asset to your customers in the process.

Services per month
Item
Advantage
Value
(per service Value/Month

Recover 95 percent of full charge Use 20-percent less virgin refrigerant (.4lbs. @ $3.60/lbs.)
$1.44
$72
Charge accuracy within 1/2oz. No more hunting for optimal charge
$2
Database Keeps technician at the car
$1
Fully programmable Set up and walk away
$1
Adjustable tank fill levels (4lbs. to 20lbs.)
Increased flexibility for larger systems $0.50
Multiple languages No misinterpreting the screens
$0.25
$12.50
Auto tank fill Don’t run out in the middle of the job
$1
$50
System leak test Reduces need for other tools
$0.50
$25
High-impact, non-marring plastic cabinet
Will not scratch customers vehicle $0.50 $25
Pneumatic tires Easier to move about the shop
$0.10
$5
4” caster wheels Easier to move about the shop
$0.10
$5
Requires heat belt No waiting to build tank pressure
$1
$50
Docking port for couplers Keeps them clean; reduces damage
$0.10
$5
Easy to service No tools and easy-to-follow instructions
$2
$100
Savings per year
$6,894

Brian Berdan is the product manager for Robinair, a business division of SPX Corp., where he is responsible for leading product management for the company's Tools and Equipment business unit, to support SPX's Robinair A/C and fluids service and equipment division. www.spx.com

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