The State of the Automotive Aftermarket … and AAPEX

Monday, February 11, 2019

By Bill Long, President and Chief Operating Officer, Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA)

To coin a phrase, “this is not your father’s aftermarket” nor your father’s AAPEX. No disrespect to dad or any of those who helped build our industry and the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX). However, there is no debate that the “parts business” as it’s affectionately called has (and will continue to be) transformed in ways that we may have only dreamed of as little as a decade ago.

It’s apparent that the prospects for the future are filled with both opportunity and a bit of fear. Similarly, AAPEX, the aftermarket industry’s largest annual international trade show, also has been transformed, featuring advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. It has become a showcase of the power and potential of the suppliers, distributors, retailers and service professionals in keeping North America (and the world) moving. Yes, this is not your father’s aftermarket, but in many ways, we have been here before, growing and prospering in the wake of automotive innovation over the last 100 years.

What’s Different Now … What’s the Same?

We have become a high-tech industry … at all levels. Wrenches have been replaced with computer diagnostics. Supply chains are driven by sophisticated inventory and logistics systems, while aftermarket parts manufacturers today engineer and produce complex advanced technology components. Perhaps the biggest difference in today’s aftermarket is the speed with which these changes are occurring and the broad range of possibilities that may result. This may test our ingenuity, resilience and our leadership skills, but it won’t deter our resolve. What hasn’t changed is our dedication and unquenchable thirst to serve customers well. These simple passions have motivated our industry to keep pace, find solutions and overcome the challenges of getting quality repair and maintenance parts to the right place at the right time.

The State of the Aftermarket …

Strong, foundational demand-drivers, including a large and growing vehicle parc, high vehicle average age and rising miles driven, are projected to yield steady growth in 2019, as well as over the next five-year cycle. Low unemployment will provide an additional tailwind, stimulating miles driven, and strengthening motorists’ financial ability to maintain their vehicles and afford repairs.

Last year, AASA released a new landmark study, conducted with PwC’s Strategy&: “Aftermarket 2025/2030: The Impact of New Vehicle Technologies on the Aftermarket.” It examines the impact of emerging new vehicle technology – autonomous, electrified, connected and shared – and the opportunities and threats this new technology creates for the industry. Although the report reinforces strong, foundational demand-drivers, we know that many products will be affected differently, based on the rate of change and adoption of new technology.

Projected Revenue Growth by Product, 2015 to 2030

Source: Aftermarket 2025/2030: An Objective Assessment of New Technologies and Opportunities for Growth; Strategy& and AASA

The good news is that we have time to prepare, adjust and position ourselves … and opportunities clearly exist. Some 30 percent-plus of the growth in market size is projected to come from products that currently don’t exist in the aftermarket.

Staying Ahead of the Curve at AAPEX

In my opinion, at no time in our history has AAPEX been more important to our industry and our future. AAPEX fills a valuable need as a showcase for the latest new products, and as a vital platform for industry dialogue and global perspective. AAPEX provides a peek into the future, helps brings clarity to market uncertainties, and delivers valuable product and technical training to repair professionals. To be notified when AAPEX registration opens in April, visit the AAPEX website.

That’s why at AAPEX, event co-owners AASA/MEMA and the Auto Care Association, alongside industry partners, will feature new technologies and the opportunities they will provide. During AAPEX 2019, you’ll find:

Mobility Garage, a technology-driven, hands-on experience highlighting the latest products for the aftermarket, as well as electric cars and other alternative fuel vehicles

AAPEX Technology of Tomorrow, a first-look showcase of emerging products and cutting-edge technologies that may not be available for several years

New Product and Packaging Showcases, spotlighting all the latest innovations, products and services

Manufacturer In-Booth Product and Technical Training, sharing the latest tips and repair solutions

Let’s Tech, 20-minute features on new product, tool and vehicle technologies

A “can’t miss” opening General Session and much more!

The Road Ahead … 

Although this is not your father’s aftermarket, we can’t lose sight nor forget those visionary leaders who brought us this far. You know who they are, both past and present. Yet to maintain our success, our industry needs all of us, our big ideas, creativity and problem-solving skills. We can each make a difference and together, we can shape the future, ensuring a vibrant aftermarket. Together, we can make it so.

Looking forward to seeing you at AAPEX 2019!