Have you ever wondered where your vehicle’s windscreen comes from? As with many automotive parts, the journey from raw materials to processing to manufacturing and assembly can be long before your windscreen gets to where it is today.
The short and obvious answer might be that your windscreen came with your vehicle when you purchased it, new or used, or it came from the automotive glazier if you’ve ever had it replaced. But that piece of glass came from somewhere, so this article will look into major suppliers of windscreens to the UK and what types of products they offer.
A who’s who of global windscreen and vehicle glass distributors
Most automotive glass in the UK comes from a handful of major global manufacturers and distributors. Independent auto glaziers and big national chains source their windscreens from one or more of these distributors and no one else, given the high barrier to entry of operating and managing such a (normally) large multinational corporate business.
Below are some of the most well-known and established manufacturers and distributors of automotive glass products in the UK:
Founded in 1826 in St Helens, Merseyside, Pilkington was one of the pioneers of windscreens and automotive glass innovations. To this day, they still produce high-quality automotive glass in over 100 countries under the ownership of the Japanese NSG group (acquisition in 2006).
For over 190 years, Pilkington has innovated time and again whilst protecting its patents aggressively. Perhaps their most notable innovation was the invention of the float glass technique by Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff in 1952. This revolutionary method of producing mass quantities of consistently uniform glass of variable thickness is a topic we covered more in our previous blog article, how windscreens are made.
In addition to the float glass technique, Pilkington has also innovated the following technologies: wraparound windscreens, electrically heated filament windscreens, S-bend backlights, full vehicle encapsulated glazing systems, and solar reflected automotive glazing. Pilkington also owns subsidiary Triplex Safety Glass, which produces robust and durable glass products for the automotive, construction, and aerospace sectors.
Today, Pilkington is a leading supplier of Original Equipment (OE) and aftermarket automotive glass in the UK with a major presence in continental Europe. They also produce ADAS glass (with sensors and cameras for modern smart cars), glass for classic cars, and many other products for their clients.
The company operates eight branches in the UK and has committed to a circular economy, using 20-25% recycled glass in their manufacturing processes.
Fun fact: Pilkington’s float glass factories produce over 6,000 km of automotive glass for non-stop runs of 11-15 years.
Charles Pugh (Glass)
For over 100 years, Charles Pugh has been a longstanding and reputable supplier of quality automotive glass in the UK. The company Charles Pugh (Glass) was founded in 1917 by Charles Ernest Pugh (born in 1845), but the founder had previously owned a paraffin and glass shop and had three sons who had formed Pugh Brothers in London.
When front windscreens made of safety glass were made mandatory in the UK in 1930 (1935 for older vehicles), Pugh was one of the first companies to be in the right place at the right time. The company went on to produce effective and durable windscreens just around the time when automobiles were becoming more commonplace.
Pugh operates today across six locations in England, supplying over 250,000 automotive glass pieces per year. With a team of only 100, Pugh is smaller than many of the other major global competitors, yet its incredible success and reputation has kept the business competitive.
Deliveries are handled with a streamlined and effective supply chain system that has been in operation for over 30 years and a fleet of 35 lorries.
Glass products from Pugh include OE and aftermarket windscreens (stock of 48,000), bodyglass, moulding, tools and adhesives for windscreen replacement. They have over 11,000 product lines, meaning that there is an automotive glass piece for just about any make or model of vehicle on the road in the UK today as well as for classic cars.
Fun fact: In Victorian times, the use of glass forbidden, which allowed passersby to see all activities taking place in public houses. Charles Pugh’s three sons formed the Pugh Brothers company, which serviced pubs with glass obscuring services such as acid treatment and sandblasting.
British-based Laddaw has become one of the go-to suppliers of durable windscreens and automotive glass to independent automotive glaziers across the UK. The company was established in Bedford in 1975 – relatively late compared to the previous two companies – yet has grown to over 18 branches across the UK.
Laddaw handles around 15,000 automotive glass products in a single day at its over 18 branches, all OE quality. The company specialises in plant and agricultural glass.
Fun fact: Laddaw’s new flagship distribution centre located in Bardon (near Coalville, Leicestershire) claims to house the widest selection of products and accessories in Europe.
Master Auto Glass
A leading distributor of aftermarket glass in the UK, Master Auto Glass is a popular choice amongst independent automotive glaziers due to their exceptional delivery fulfilment times and their wide selection of aftermarket glass and accessories. The company has been a leading distributor in the UK for over 30 years and operates across eight branches in England and one in Scotland.
Master Auto Glass operates a nationwide delivery service in the UK, including same-day service thanks to its fleet of 55 delivery vehicles. In addition to automotive glass, they also supply OEM quality toolkits and adhesives for automotive glaziers.
Fun fact: Although most distribution is within the UK, Master Auto Glass offers exporting services as well for international destinations.
One of the oldest automotive glass manufacturers in the world, Sekurit Saint-Gobain has a global presence in over 20 countries and with thousands of employees, mostly operating out of continental Europe and Asia.
The company was the pioneer of both the laminated windscreen and the Securit tempering process in 1929, both widely used technologies in just about every vehicle to the modern day.
Today, Sekurit Saint-Gobain specialises in research and development. They produce prototype windscreens and automotive glass technologies including tinted glazing, polymer Freeglass, and much more.
Saint-Gobain also provides a lot of cool and perhaps nerdy facts about modern safety glass. Learn more cool facts about windscreen glass from their website.
Fun fact: French chemist Edouard Benedictus is widely regarded as the pioneer of laminated glass, the method by which nearly all modern windscreens are manufactured to this day. His story is quite interesting, and we’ve touched on it in our previous blog (linked above).
From where do automotive glaziers source their glass?
Chances are, the big national brands in the UK and small, independent automotive glaziers operating near you all source their glass from one or more of the above manufacturers and distributors.
There really isn’t much more competition in this sector due to the highly complex manufacturing processes involved in automotive glass production as well as the stringent standards for automotive glass in the UK and around the world. In the UK, windscreen glass must adhere to standard BS AU 242A.
For the consumer, the main consideration one should make regarding the quality of the glass is whether the piece needs to be OE or if aftermarket will do. There are many variables involved, so it isn’t always that one is preferable to the other. When both OE and aftermarket glass will do, aftermarket tends to be far more affordable than OE.
Learn more about the differences between the two in our previous blog article, OEM vs aftermarket vehicle glass.
What should matter most as a motorist in the UK in need of windscreen repairs or windscreen replacement is that you choose a dependable, trustworthy glazier that offers affordable prices and quick turnaround times.
How to find a reputable automotive glass technician near you
Finding an auto glazier isn’t necessarily difficult in the UK. Anyone with motor insurance with windscreen cover will surely be familiar with the insurer’s “preferred” choice should anything go wrong, but it may seem like your choices are lacking.
The best way to find skilled, affordable auto glaziers in the UK is through myWindscreen. Our platform enables motorists in the UK to get in touch with local, independent technicians that provide fully mobile, high-quality windscreen repair and windscreen replacement services at highly competitive prices.
Get your windscreen replaced by a member of myWindscreen
Getting started is easy! Just click on GET QUOTES, enter your postcode, then request a no-obligation quote and enjoy same day and next day mobile services at great prices.