Post Coronavirus: Preparing for a Technology Driven Future

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

By Chris H. Gardner, Senior Vice President, AASA

The industry is facing challenging times, and we collectively are part of the effort to address the issues and help each other. It should encourage the industry to know that your trade associations – Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) and others – are working diligently to guide members through the crisis while helping companies understand the depth, severity and length of the downturn.

Your associations have steered the aftermarket by:

  • Securing “essential business” status for much of the industry, which has enabled many companies, stores and shops to continue operating
  • Helping companies walk through the CARES Act stimulus package process
  • Organizing companies to match their capabilities with the Defense Protection Act opportunities to pivot manufacturing to produce PPE and other medical items
  • Partnering with associations around the world to share information and insights
  • Providing online forums for members to find information and share stories of how they are coping
  • Developing, borrowing, analyzing and communicating lots of data to help members understand the length of the slow down and when companies can plan to ramp up
  • Creating a list of helpful resources: AASA’s Navigating COVID 19: Resources, Webinars, Forums and Auto Care Association’s Coronavirus and the Aftermarket – Business Resources.

All the market indicators point to a significant slowing at repair shops. No surprise. Many shops will be challenged to keep technicians working for regular hours and even to pay the bills. We get it. Industry efforts are focused on trying to mitigate the damage.

However, this could be a great opportunity for shop owners to do a little planning. The drive toward semiconductor-based passenger vehicles will be back in full speed as soon as we recover, and this will accelerate the challenges the industry faces in managing the new technologies. Shops still need to prepare for calibrating advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), managing cybersecurity protocols, complying with data privacy regulations, training on the latest diagnostic tools and systems, and much more. As a side note, your associations have been very busy working through the SAE committee structure to standardize ADAS naming structures, definitions and even calibration processes.

Investing in technology or in servicing late model vehicles with advanced technologies is a strategic way to establish a shop as a premier service provider.

Thinking and developing successful strategies require downtime, and the current environment should provide it. Parts suppliers – think about how you can help shops prepare for the changing technologies. Distribution channel – think about how to help shops through the crisis. Shop owners – think about preparing your business for the semiconductor and sensor revolution that is upon us.

Everyone – think about the incredible resource and opportunity we collectively have in AAPEX. Yes – AAPEX will be held Nov. 3-5 in Las Vegas, and it will be a catalyst for revitalizing and re-energizing the amazing aftermarket industry

AAPEX will provide training, innovation and demonstrations intentionally designed to help repair businesses move toward technology. The event will be the best opportunity for shops to speak face-to-face with the companies that develop and manufacture emerging vehicle technologies.

A significant revamping of the show will create the strongest focus on the repair community in the history of the event. The lower level of the Sands Expo will become “Repair Shop HQ.” Tool & Equipment, Heat Transfer and the new Tire sections will be located in this area, in addition to the Shop Demo area featuring six bays that simulate a real shop environment and two new training theatres. 

The current crisis shall pass. The key to staying ahead is joining your community at AAPEX 2020 to reconnect, especially this year when the industry will collectively celebrate its successes, including surviving the downturn.

Be safe and healthy, and we will see you in Vegas!