Case study: LPR srl

LPR srl – from IT

LPR srl was founded in 1952 in the surrounding of Piacenza, Italy. It is a privately owned company, active in the automotive sector, and specialised in manufacturing car brake spare parts, such as discs, pads, shoes, cv joints, water pumps and hoses.

Company activities: developing a range of products for cars and light vehicles’ brake systems.
Size: ca. 1300 full-time employees
Interest in Japan: to find Japanese importers

 

http://www.lpr.it

The LPR srl vision is to be a strong and trusted partner for its clients, the essential source of sensory innovation for its customers, by focusing of R&D and state-of-the-art technology. This vision reflects its desire to be among the most appreciated companies in its sector, offering flawless and high quality products to its clients. This is reflected through its client list, which includes some of the world’s most renowned names.

LPR srl uses top quality raw materials, always paying attention to follow the most stringent manufacturing rules for its markets. These, together with a strong organisation and commitment to its employees, are the keys to the company’s success in this tough and highly competitive sector.

WHY JAPAN?

Since the beginning of its history, LPR srl looked abroad, having in its genes the vision of selling worldwide. Following this path, a couple of years ago, its Japanese dream became a reality: it was known as a complex market to break into, a big bet, as Japanese people are well known for their preference for excellence and quality. This was a big challenge as 95% of the Japanese market is composed of OE (original parts) choices - meaning that only a mere 5% or so is left to aftermarket products, which are the core business of LPR srl. Moreover, LPR srl had to reach high quality standards to have the possibility to break into this market. For this reason, a research study was conducted and finally, I personally got in touch with the EU-Japan Centre for support and advice on how to make the first steps. The company decided to attempt entering the Japanese market counting on two essential elements: being a “Made in Italy” company, which is an important factor in Japan and could help open up a space or attract potential distributors’ interest; and having a deep knowledge of manufacturing. LPR srl already has a presence in over 90 countries worldwide and we considered it was the right time to try a new adventure in the Japanese market.

STEPS TAKEN

With all this good intention and strong will, I got all the valuable information from the EU-Japan Centre, with names and addresses of potential distributors who could be interested in starting a cooperation with LPR srl. Following their advice, and sending a good presentation/introduction of the company was successful: we had so much to offer and to tell, and we did it in the best possible way, even inviting potential distributors to visit our premises since the first contact. After long and careful checks and talks from both sides, we finally got in touch with two distributors who seemed really interested in starting a mutual cooperation. In fact, they both came to visit us with great satisfaction, and a second visit is already on the agenda for 2018 with new proposals and ideas.

CHALLENGES

This new challenge came together with some problems of course, such as transport, packaging, or language. However, all this was easily overcome as there was a strong will to go ahead from both sides. In addition, the fact that Japanese customers want to buy products from well-known companies that have been established for many years (at least 20 to 30 years ) was an issue. But as we had a long history, it was not a problem. Therefore, there was the language barrier, but I was confident that, with a little luck, I would meet distributors who would communicate in English and so distributing the products using a common language. We also supported and kept on supporting them in local fairs with merchandising material and other commercial support. We can say that we are on track to have a strong presence on the Japanese market.

CURRENT STATUS - NEXT STEPS

As for their next steps in the Japanese market, LPR srl has received two proposals which are still under investigation. On the one side, the possibility of a joint venture with the distributor to further expand our presence on the Japanese market and from there, all over the Asian markets. On the other side, to supply Japanese car makers, which would be an honour for LPR srl. This could be supported by the fact that the company already cooperates with one of them as part of a European brand. The lesson for LPR srl was good; they had to understand a different way of making business and reaffirmed their capacity to face important challenges. 

RECCOMENDATIONS

Without doubt, when European companies choose to target Japan, they should first make contact with a consulting agency or an organisation, such as the EU-Japan Centre, in order to have someone introducing them to the Japanese market and teaching them about the differences compared to the European market. In addition, instead of starting collaboration with several partners, it is better to start with just one or two. Therefore, learning the different aspects of the Japanese market through these partners, then in the future, expanding, finding other new relevant partners and dealing with Japanese market differences will be easier. In this way, the EU-Japan Centre’s mission was a concrete way to learn more about Japan and to reach a deal.

Based on an interview with Mr Carlo Autolino, Area Manager from LPR srl.