By Faron Schultz, retired, Vice President of Purchasing, Les Schwab Tires

Imagine one event that can change the course of your business trajectory. 

AAPEX is that event. And everybody loves Las Vegas.

To paraphrase Jim Rohn, widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of our time, do not wish it was easiermake yourself better.

In these February 2019 photos (at right), my wife Barb and I enjoy our last Les Schwab’s Manager’s Meeting in Maui and emceeing the event. After 44 years in the automotive aftermarket industry, I am retiring from the role of Vice President of Purchasing from Les Schwab Tires, one of America’s largest and most respected independent tire dealers. The position was earned by following a few straightforward guidelines. Not to go all Matt Foley from Saturday Night Live on you, but these simple guidelines work. First, have fun. Life is not all puppies and butterflies, but no matter how difficult it gets, find the joy in the situation and then build the solution. Second, learn. Develop an insatiable appetite for information that will promote success. And third, get stuff done. Live with a sense of urgency. Do something, always.

In 1976, I started pumping gas and sweeping floors at a tire store in Spokane, Washington. After a few years on the job, George the manager suggested that if a person were to learn what wheel fits what vehicle, they would never have to look for work.  During the “Jimmy Carter” economy, this was a powerful statement.

Weeks were spent on bus benches with Rocket Wheel and Cragar Wheel application guides, watching cars drive by until all vehicles were committed to memory for Year, Make, Model, tire size, bolt pattern and thread pitch.

Turns out that George was right. Good work has always been available. But only because of a commitment to learning.

In 1983, we attended our first major trade show, the National Tire and Retreaders Association (NTDRA) in St. Louis. It was amazing.

All of the industry leaders in one place. Seminars on selling, tire construction, market trends. So much information in one place – it made attendance mandatory. Pictured (at right) are cartoons drawn during the show.

Since 1983, we have attended more than 40 trade shows including 34 Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week events and 31 consecutive AAPEX and SEMA shows.

The shows have changed. The industry has evolved. Missing these events will set any company backwards!

AAPEX is especially important. It is the event that helps the aftermarket keep America and vehicles throughout the world moving.

At AAPEX, every major supplier to our industry is present. If vehicles are important to your business, you will witness suppliers helping you prepare with the latest technologies and products.

Imagine the opportunity to meet and learn from industry suppliers and leaders; to learn what is happening with vehicles and what is just around the corner.

The training seminars offer extraordinary opportunities to prepare for the future while improving your service to your customers today.

It is with these training opportunities that each person investing in their skillset will learn about the connected vehicle and Telematics. Connected vehicles are a growing part of the driving environment. And the aftermarket’s ability to service these vehicles correctly will require that we understand how the systems work, and how to service connected vehicles.

AAPEX vendors and seminars will educate you about the “Autonomous” self-driving vehicle. Autonomous vehicles will likely come to fruition, but not all that soon, unless a tremendous investment in infrastructure and a retro-fit system is developed. But modern Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are here now, and are a precursor to self-driving vehicles. These ADAS equipped vehicles are in our bays today. We learn, train, equip and service or we direct the customer back to the dealer. Choose learning!

The electrification of the car park will be slow, but it will come. It looks like China may be the driving force behind electrification, and the common platforms being developed for global use will show up in our bays sooner than we may expect. This offers more opportunity to be experts, but only if we invest in learning.

In addition, AAPEX will offer opportunities to understand the impact of “shared” vehicle ownership. We will learn how “shared” impacts us today, and what it might look like in the future. It seems unlikely that rural America will embrace the “shared vehicle” environment, but the possibility of dense population centers accepting the benefits of a shared vehicle transportation model are real. Shared vehicle services such as LYFT and Uber offer the city enormous advantages over traditional mass transit. Point to point transportation has always been the most efficient form of mass transit. With the “shared” model, vehicle utilization will increase. Maintenance of these “shared” vehicles will belong to the companies that understand this shift and are prepared. If we are not prepared, we will not earn the business.

It was through AAPEX and the associated industry trade groups we were able to work with Government entities to develop laws designed to improve our environment.

The first legislation we were involved with was Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). It was hours, days, weeks and months of research working with the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to establish a rule that worked for the aftermarket.

The next legislation was “Lead Free” wheel weights in Washington and California. We’re happy to say, we were able to work with state governments and industry groups to move to a lead free wheel weight environment on the west coast. The rest of you, catch up!

The final piece of legislation we worked on was Copper Free brakes. This was the biggest project and working with aftermarket experts, including the great people at the Auto Care Association, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) and most Original Equipment Manufacturers, we were able to develop a program that is being rolled throughout the country as you read this.

All of this is possible because of industry organizations and AAPEX.

If you are on the fence about attending the show, make a decision and go. If you think you know it all and do not need the show, you are mistaken and your competitors will pass you by. It is that simple.

AAPEX requires a commitment from the people attending. It requires time. It requires travel expenses. It requires planning. But most importantly it requires commitment to yourself, your business and to your customers. To register now, visit aapexshow.com/attendee.

Attend and you just might get to meet some cool people while there! Just one more benefit. I was able to
meet race car driver turned designer Carroll Shelby (for real) in 1991 (at right). In 1995, I’m shaking hands with four time Indy 500 winner AJ Foyt and photobombing Richard Petty and Danny Sullivan.