Start-up for car spare parts digital professionals for classic cars

founder artur oswald (left) and philipp seul, who manages the operational business. Photo: susanne roeder

The start-up retromotion supplies vehicles that are more than 20 years old with spare parts – even from the 3-D printer if necessary.

Stuttgart – fahrtwind, the original name for the project, does not sound international. But because the start-up is very ambitious and sooner or later wants to become the platform for classic cars not only throughout europe, but worldwide, it is now called retromotion. The movement has remained with motion, the reference to old is in retro. Retromotion is dedicated to finding or constructing spare parts for older cars and vintage cars. this means that the start-up is currently one of the few industries that have more to do in corona times than before the serious outbreak of the pandemic – because owners of classic vehicles now have time to look at their mobile valuables. Even before that, the start-up was growing fast.

Problem solver with instinct to found

Artur oswald is a busy contemporary. he is not a real car man, although he says he has an affinity for beautiful cars. So how did the foundation of retromotion come about?? The path to this was almost accidental. "I see myself as a problem solver," says Oswald of himself. Äphilipp seul, who moved from the stuttgart start-up platform pioniergeist to retromotion last year, has a similar opinion: "we are digital professionals, we have a digital business model. We therefore need the following competencies in this area in particular. But we also have wrenchers with workshop experience in our team."

Oswald founded the start-up revoprint seven years ago, which offers free printing to students and of which he is still the head. He did this out of a personal experience of having trouble printing documents as a student. "at revoprint we also looked at 3D printing to make the copy stores a little sexier."

ÜBer the 3D printing to the screwdriver scene

His expertise and experience in 3D printing led him to the start-up scene in stuttgart. The automotive supplier mahle and pioniergeist contacted artur as part of the start-up program activatr. That was four years ago and in the course of the first wave of cooperative ventures with start-ups. Mahle was looking for ideas for 3D printing. "the program was designed to last six weeks, with two people from the corporate world – in our case from mahle – and two people from the start-up scene as sparring partners," recalls the heidelberger. "at that time, my main concern was to expand my network in stuttgart. I had no further ambitions." but because the innovation challenge was to find out whether there could be a plausible business model for 3D printing in spare parts supply, many discussions within those six weeks led to the idea and concept of today’s retromotion. the vision: to make spare parts available for the classic car scene.

retromotion’s claims are by no means modest. The current team of eight wants to become the number one platform for the classic car scene in europe. "for us, classic cars are vehicles that are older than 20 years – in other words, from the so-called youngtimers onwards," explains philipp.

the ‘trinity’ of spare parts procurement

Not many kilometers away from their headquarters in the impact hub is the classic center of mercedes-benz, where the vehicles with stars from more than 130 years are maintained, restored and kept in good condition. Sometimes one or the other important part is missing – the result are often individual copies and they are really expensive. Of course retromotion knows the fellbachers, says oswald. "our mission is to source spare parts through our ‘trinity’, as we call our approach."the start-up has built up three stages: an online store, a platform for online classifieds that brings inquirers together with parts dealers, and, as the third stage, the remanufacturing of individual parts.

Cooperation with suppliers

In the online store, shopping is easy, he says, because the parts are listed that retromotion has in stock through its partners. "Here we work very closely with mahle, mann+hummel, SKF, continental and other suppliers. Currently we have 25 suppliers with more than 50 000 spare parts in our portfolio."

If you can’t find what you are looking for in the store, you can go to the second stage, which retromotion calls "parts scout". "the spare parts market is partly offline". one can imagine there the television scrap dealers ludolfs." says oswald. The highest of the feelings of digitization for many, he says, is an e-mail. But these parts dealers know their way around excellently and also know exactly where the respective treasure is buried with their many parts. Retromotion sends unanswered inquiries from the online store to the network of parts dealers.

If the search remains fruitless, the "crowning glory" follows. Seul explains: "once you have collected some data about what parts are available on the market, what parts are not and what the demand is, then you go into post-production."in addition to 3D printing, it can also be conventional production, for example by an industrial partner who can produce from batch size 50 upwards. Why the same 50 spare parts? Because on the pickup side a club is taking this number. "we’ll organize that and be the digital interface for it."

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