AWDA Marks 75 Years Not with Diamonds, But with Stars in Las Vegas

Monday, October 17, 2022

AWDA Marks 75 Years Not with Diamonds, But with Stars in Las Vegas

By Ted Hughes, Executive Director, AWDA

Ted Hughes

The stars will be out in full force in just a few weeks amid the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas – but these stars are not from Hollywood, not even from the small screen or the silver screen, but these stars are the ones who have delivered on the promise to keep America moving through a two-year stretch nobody will ever forget.  

Seventy-five years ago, the nation, and the world, were still emerging from the depths of World War II. The nuclear age had been ushered in, the Baby Boomer generation was marking its beginning, and our great country was at a crossroads. Amid this turmoil, a network of automotive parts warehouses came together to form what we now know as the Aftermarket Warehouse Distributors Association. Simply known as AWDA, this community remains the oldest organized group of warehouse distributors along with their respective suppliers of parts, accessories and other supplies for the motor vehicle aftermarket.

Like where our industry and our nation were 75 years ago, the automotive aftermarket once again is at a crossroads. We are facing threats from multiple directions, some we have seen before, and others we have not. Technology is bringing both challenges and opportunities, and thanks to the visionaries we have in our industry, we are poised to overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

If AAPEX is the centerpiece of Industry Week, then the AWDA Conference is the cornerstone of which AAPEX is built: Traditional Distribution.  

In advance of AAPEX opening on Nov. 1, parts manufacturers and parts distributors will have concluded more than 1,600 individual meetings to discuss the issues we face as an industry, and that each of them faces every day in the course of doing business. Some of these meetings are an opportunity for longtime business partners to catch up and share stories; some of these meetings will address the many trials either side encounters, while other meetings are between a manufacturer and a distributor who are looking to expand on their new relationship and want to collaborate on how they can work together toward success in the future.

Regardless of the context for the hundreds of meetings taking place October 30th and 31st, one common element through all of them will be moving on from the pandemic. Our industry, like so many others, is still experiencing complications in supply chain and labor. While indications are pointing in a positive direction, getting back to the consistency and confidence that when a part is ordered it will show up when and where it is supposed to remains a test.

The AWDA Conference is just one aspect of Industry Week. Literally billions of dollars will change hands in meetings held throughout the week as buyers and manufacturers review the latest in products and technology. The AAPEX show floor is back to being sold out on the upper level, and the excitement that awaits in Joe’s Garage and Repair HQ within the lower level is certainly going to attract a lot of attention. Technicians and shop owners will be participating in technical training sessions in an effort to stay on top of the latest trends in the vehicle repair space. AAPEX 2022 is set to be one of the best yet.

The aisles of the Venetian Expo will be packed once again with people starting at 9 a.m., but there is just as much to do after the event closes at 5 p.m. Receptions hosted by several of the Auto Care Association communities like YANG, Women in Auto Care, and the Import Vehicle Community, as well as receptions and parties hosted by individual manufacturers, distributors and service providers promote industry networking in a way not seen any other place throughout the year. AAPEX is truly the flagship of the aftermarket calendar.

We have two weeks before we are together once again celebrating this industry and the importance that it brings to the 4.5 million people who work in it … and I can’t wait! In fact, someone just asked me earlier today, “What are you most looking forward to at AAPEX?”

The answer seemed so simple, then in the blink of an eye, I thought of about 10 different things that I am looking forward to, and the prospect of picking just one as what I am most looking forward to became a much bigger challenge. To answer the question, I am most looking forward to watching the wheels of our industry turn at full speed once again. Manufacturers and distributors selling products to buyers, companies showcasing new technologies and new products, and old friends reuniting, while new friends forge a relationship that will last decades.  

This is my 20th AAPEX, but it marks a new beginning for me as the first time I will be experiencing the event from this side of the industry … and I am so excited to have the opportunity to serve this great industry – the only one I have ever known – now and for years to come.

As Executive Director, Hughes is responsible for the engagement, growth and retention of the Aftermarket Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA) community of the Auto Care Association. With over 20 years of aftermarket experience, most recently as head of marketing for MAHLE Aftermarket Inc., Hughes has been dedicated to the aftermarket throughout his career via involvement in Auto Care Association and Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) committees. 

Oct. 17, 2022