By Liz Goad, director, Events and Meetings, AASA
This year has been. . .well, it’s been a year. Usually, this is the time of year we are finalizing preparations for the AAPEX Show in Las Vegas. We are getting ready to see all our industry friends, celebrate the year’s accomplishments, and plan for the future. And while, sadly, we won’t be in Las Vegas this year, what hasn’t changed is that the AAPEX team is finalizing preparations for the Virtual AAPEX Experience, where we will still connect with industry friends, reflect on the year’s challenges and successes, and plan for the future – and have some fun along the way.
While other industries have struggled to climb out of the hole caused by the pandemic, the aftermarket has been fortunate to see people treat their cars as a safety bubble – taking road trips instead of flying, and commuting by car rather than public transportation. This, along with other factors, has contributed to a return in demand for service and parts. And while we see demand in our industry improving, it has been a challenge getting here, and getting here safely – including adjusting operations to protect our employees, colleagues and friends – and we still have a long road ahead.
In addition to the challenges associated with a pandemic, the aftermarket already had lofty goals to address in 2020 and beyond. Things like training, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), attracting talent, keeping shops open, and finding qualified technicians are still on everyone’s radar.
Furthermore, the inability to meet face to face to conduct business has been challenging for everyone. This is a relationship industry. The valuable industry networking and direct interaction is how we keep the lines of communication open – which is particularly critical when facing such uncertainty. In planning for the future, we need to keep the lines of communication open, stay connected, and ride out the storm together.
While the Virtual AAPEX Experience is not a replacement for our in-person show, we have pivoted, and adapted, just as our industry has, to provide a valuable experience for participants and to help our industry reconnect digitally. Shop owners and technicians will have access to top trainers and accredited sessions at no cost to them. They will also be able to meet with and see demos and training from the top suppliers in the industry – keeping the lines of communication open and helping us advance our goals around training, ADAS and staffing.
Exhibitors are excited to participate in the Virtual AAPEX Experience and look forward to connecting with customers in a variety of ways. I spoke with Schaeffler who said, “Going virtual will of course be different, but we intend to use this as an opportunity to keep in touch with our distribution partners, as well as service and repair professionals, despite the challenging situation we are all facing.” As an OEM supplier that is involved with many of the future technologies, they are excited to share what’s next and what’s new for the aftermarket.
Continental said they will be showcasing their training and will have demos for several new products related to automated driving, vehicle diagnostics, TPMS service tools, wiper systems and turn assist cameras. ZF is looking forward to connecting directly with repair professionals as they focus on system technologies, hosting a series of technical training sessions within the platform. And Spectra Premium is hoping to expand industry awareness of their award-winning e-catalog, training, product information and technical support. They said “. . .this is a terrific opportunity to hear valuable feedback from service professionals.”
Mitchell 1 is excited to connect with current customers and industry friends and expand their reach to people who may not have been able to attend the in-person event in the past. They will be featured this year as part of Joe’s Garage, showing demos of repair information, shop management, and shop marketing. They will be featured alongside other well-known companies like BG Products, Bosch, Hunter Engineering, and NAPA.
Additional exhibitor training sessions are being hosted by DRiV’s Garage Gurus, Autel, CARQUEST and Worldpac’s Technical Institutes, and Bolt-On University. These sessions will cover pressing topics like Engine Performance Diagnostic Strategies, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Calibration, and Untrasonic Diagnostic Strategies.
And for the latest aftermarket products and technologies, attendees have access to the “New Product Showcase,” an online catalog that allows them to browse at their convenience and easily connect with the supplier to ask questions and see product demos.
AAPEX exhibitors have been partnering with AASA and Auto Care Association to host our annual industry event for decades and they have been essential in making this year’s virtual event an amazing experience for everyone.
All in all, the Virtual AAPEX Experience will be an event to remember. It will provide service professionals a taste of all the training, new products and technologies, demos, thought leaders and experts AAPEX has to offer. And in 2021, when we bring everyone back together – in-person – for the biggest and best AAPEX yet, we will celebrate the year’s successes, all we overcame together, and once again, look forward to the year ahead.