Our Finest Hour

Our Finest Hour

By Bill Long, president and CEO, MEMA

Bill Long

As you may have heard, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) is celebrating its 118th anniversary this year … and if you’re not familiar with us, MEMA is a trade association of over 1,000 vehicle parts and systems manufacturers and represents the largest sector of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and 2.5% of U.S. GDP. 

Over the last 24+ months, businesses and business leaders at every level have been tested in ways rarely experienced in our history. Political dividesocial unrest, the creation of tariffs and uncertainty over U.S. trade policy, the prospects of a recession, a pandemic, the shutdown and restart of new vehicle production lines, workforce shortageschip shortagesupply chain constraintsport delaysmask and vaccine mandates, Delta variant, then Omicron, inflation and now the Russia and Ukrainian war … all at a time of great transformation in technology in the automotive and commercial vehicle industry.  

The rate of change and unexpected or unforeseen challenges have been unprecedented. 

When I think of these challenges, I am reminded of the movie and the events of Apollo 13.  

You know, there’s a scene in the movie Apollo 13, when it becomes clear the space craft appears to be dying (leaking oxygen into space, carbon monoxide poising the astronauts, and a damaged heat shield) and quick actions, collaboration and working together is the only hope. Among the chaos, the head of CapCom calmly proclaims, “let’s work the problem, people.” Later, in the background are two advisors who can be overheard predicting the worst-case scenario when the head of CapCom contests their assessment, saying, “gentlemen, in all due respect I believe this will be our finest hour.” 

For the record, there have been many days in my career that I’ve professed, “Houston, we have a problem.”

But I’d like to also profess, that despite the challenges we face, this too can be our finest hour, but we must all work together to make it so … to accept the challenges we face openly and work together collectively.

Now, more than ever, we need to engage and embrace new thinking, new approaches, new ideas and solutions. AAPEX, the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo, is more than a trade show, it is our industry’s gathering place to connect, share news ideas and prepare for tomorrow.  

Even now, 52 years later, the Apollo 13 mission still stands as testament to the human spirit. I believe that same human spirit is present in the aftermarket, where ingenuity, innovation and hard work have allowed our industry to repair and maintain millions of vehicles for over one hundred years.

Join me at AAPEX and let’s make this our finest hour.  

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