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Vitobello Ricambi – Giving engines a second life

Founded by a scrap merchant, the late Gaetano Vitobello, Italian core dealer, Vitobello Ricambi has prospered by focusing on quality and building networks as far as South America. The company now has its sights on expansion in Eastern Europe.

When, more than 40 years ago, Gaetano Vitobello made a living from collecting old car parts and selling them to foundries, one day he stopped up and told himself: “There is a better way of disposing of these parts.”

And there was indeed. Decades before anyone fully realised the value of recycling, Signor Vitobello in Cesena between Bologna and Rimini had a vision of preserving his used car parts by selling them to the incipient remanufacturing industry. Thus Vitobello Ricambi was born.

Working from a modern industrial building in Longiano which would have made Vitobello Senior proud, his son, 42-year-old Luca, is now continuing the business which bears his name – not only as one of Italy’s oldest core dealers, but also as one of the market leaders inside Italy but also in markets outside. Here, in Longiano near Bologna, the heartland of the Italian motor industry Luca Vitobello has built a business that extends into all corners of Italy, with a strong focus on South America and increasingly in Eastern Europe.

Having left school at the age of 14 to join his father’s business, Luca grew up with oil on his hands, a fact which in his view is an important part of the explanation behind his company’s progress.

“I didn’t go to business school,” he says with a smile. “But I learned the core business from the bottom up. Travelling around and staying with customers and getting to know them and their problems – all this has been a better school for me.”

Vitobello’s headquarters comprise a recently updated warehouse of 4,000 sq.m. from where the company supplies more than 15,000 engine parts for remanufacturing, including crankshafts, camshafts, engine-heads, pumps flywheels, injectors and even complete engines. In addition to the ten employees, 40 core collectors across Italy work closely with Vitobello. The close relationship with the buyers ensures not only a regular supply, but also a high standard of core.

“We make sure the products we supply are selected for their quality and every single item is inspected before going into the warehouse,” explains Luca Vitobello.

New parts

As a sign of the times, perhaps, the new warehouse is divided into two areas – one for new parts and one for the used cores. The new parts are a fairly recent addition to the Vitobello range, a decision forced by circumstance rather than preference. “We need the new parts for when there is a lack of suitable cores,” says Luca Vitobello. “But I expect the core part of the business to continue to account for the majority of our sales.’

Travelling around the world for three months a year, it is no coincidence that an important part of Vitobello’s expansion lies in the fairly distant market of South America where Vitobello Ricambi has set up an extensive network of distributors in Chile, Equador, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. After a stow start which required a considerable amount of effort, South America is now one of the company’s main markets – and Spanish and Portuguese speaker Luca Vitobetlo is confident that there is further growth to come. As a result, he visits Latin America three times a year.

“In the early days, the problem was finding professionals with knowledge of remanufarturing,” he explains. “But as the markets begin to realise the value of remanufactured products and the fact that the price of such products is very good, this is no longer a problem.”

Remanufacturing more important

“I go there not so much in order to sell our products,” he adds, “but to stay with customers to assist them and educate them. It takes time, but we’re getting there and I believe that remanufacturing is becoming more important in some of these countries where it has been slow to take off.”

Likewise, Vitobello agrees that the East European markets represent a growth area and that part of the company’s further development will take place here. Once again, however, Vitobelli Ricambi is building for the long-term accepting that this, too, is going to take time. “But we’ve made a start and I’m sure we’ll get there. Don’t forget that years ago, the Italian, German and Spanish markets were the same. As the East European countries become more prosperous, there will be a greater need for remanufacturing.” During Lucca Vitobello’s frequent absences, the business back in Longiano is in the capable hands of Alixia Vitobello, his wife and business partner, who has become a well-known face at the many international trade fairs where the company exhibits, including Automechanika in Buenos Aires, Automechanika in the Middle East, MIMS in Moscow and the ReMaTec shows in Amsterdam.

Alixia Vitobello

Having worked alongside her husband, being an outsider – and a woman – in a male onented industry is no longer an issue for Alixia Vitobello.

“I think the customers know what I can do and are happy with it,” she says. And as for the future? “We would like to grow the company further and make it even better than it is now. Here in Italy, with its 800 rebuilding shops, the outlook for remanufactunng is good. People are becoming more professional all the time and quality is constantly improving.”

“My mission is our customers’ satisfaction,” Lucca Vitobello likes to say. Strongly confident of further growth – so far averaging 20 per cent per year – he prides himself on focused analysis and providing efficient and innovative solutions to his customers’ requirements. In striving for innovation and constantly updated knowledge of the markets, however, Vitobello has not lost sight of the fundamentals at the root of his business:

– expert knowledge of the cores,
– a highly qualified and loyal staff,
– expansion outside Italy.

“Knowing your cores is so important,” he says. “I learn something every day. This is not a business where your work is ever finished.”

Article originally appeared in Rematec News

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