By Brian Plott, executive director, Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI)
I started this year with great anticipation, feeling that 2020 would be a year charged with evolutionary change in the industry and powerful growth in the automotive aftermarket. As if to confirm this feeling, our first quarter activities came out of the gate full blast with membership expansion and event planning leading the charge. The ETI team put together a powerful new concept for our annual Tool Tech event in May and, once completed, began working with the AAPEX team in coordinating communications and promotional plans for the entirely new 2020 AAPEX Show concept. AAPEX has always been one of the most important annual events that ETI attends and we were very excited to help promote the new concept. With flights and hotel rooms reserved for Vegas, and booth space requested, we started working with the AAPEX team to promote the new AAPEX concept and layout.
The concepts were (are) outstanding. A wildly enhanced, focused and organized floor plan for the lower level was to bring diagnostics, telematics, alternative fuels, A/C, and other tools and equipment under the banner of Repair Shop HQ. The product types would be focused and organized. A mock repair shop area known as “Joe’s Garage” would give attendees the chance to see many of the products in action on actual vehicles.
Upstairs, attendees would find the Automotive Aftermarket Central area, where buyers would see Automotive Technology information, an extensive collision section, parts, robotics, remanufacturing, and other areas of interest. International suppliers would get a treat as well by being among the first to exhibit in the newly-completed International Pavilion. Yes, 2020 was going to be a banner year for AAPEX and everyone involved. More than a year’s worth of work and planning was finally coming to fruition when COVID stepped in and pulled the rug out from under everyone.
We all hoped that the lockdown would be short-lived and that things would be back on-line quickly. We continued to plan and work with the optimistic attitude that it would all work out for the better. Little did anyone know the magnitude of disruption and devastation the pandemic would bring. One by one, our major events for 2020 had to be cancelled. We kept in communication with the AAPEX team throughout the lockdown, watching to see what actions they would take as we got closer and closer to a go/no-go decision for the event. The AAPEX Show carried the hope of the industry on its shoulders, always optimistic and always confident, right up until the show had to be cancelled.
The Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, which co-own AAPEX, are formidable organizations with a passion and drive to take care of their members. They are also strong allies with ETI and other associations in driving initiatives in the best interests of the automotive aftermarket. They were not about to sit down and give up. Instead, they went to work to put together a program by which their members and the entire automotive industry would benefit.
Welcome, Virtual AAPEX Experience 2020. This isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill webinar. AAPEX is doing what they said couldn’t be done. The AAPEX team has put together a truly interactive program of education, training and networking. They are raising the bar for what you might expect for a virtual meeting, with shop owners, techs and suppliers being the beneficiaries. This year, the Virtual AAPEX Experience will be providing a platform for product and technology providers to interact with their customer base in a whole new way. Attendees will get to see countless new offerings while hearing about product features and benefits from the experts. There will be extensive training offered to technicians and shop owners alike. Click on this link to see the impressive lineup of professionals and subject matter that will be covered during the event: https://www.aapexshow.com/schedule/.
If that’s not enough, the Virtual AAPEX Experience platform is already open. If you are registered, you can now start signing up for one-on-one meetings with tool manufacturers to discuss their products and learn what is new in the way of tools and equipment. If you still have questions, you will be able to see many of the products being demonstrated in “Joe’s Garage” throughout the event.
While all of this would be of great value to technicians, shop owners or anyone else in the business at the normal cost of registration, the Virtual AAPEX Experience team understands the extent of the burden that COVID has put on techs, owners, and people across the industry. In response, they will be providing this program at no charge to service and repair professionals, although anyone who finds the content relevant and is working in the automotive aftermarket may attend.
On behalf of the Equipment and Tool Institute, its members and staff, I applaud and thank the Virtual AAPEX Experience team, Auto Care Association and AASA for their efforts in composing such an extensive program in this short period of time. Take it from someone that knows, they have moved mountains to put this together so quickly. I urge you to take the time to participate in this event. It’s an investment of your time but the return will be well worth it.
ETI is one of the most respected trade associations in the automotive aftermarket, giving fair and equitable representation to all segments of the equipment and tool industry. The institute is an association of automotive tool and equipment manufacturers, technical information providers, and training organizations.
ETI’s Mission is to advance the vehicle service industry by providing technical data and open dialog between the manufacturers of transportation products, government regulators, and the providers tools, equipment and service information.