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GAAS slate touches on key aftermarket issues

Sunday, May 4, 2008 - 23:00
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With a slate full of speakers addressing the most topical issues facing the automotive aftermarket, the 2008 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) is just a few weeks away.

Dave Caracci

“Shift Forward,” this year’s GAAS theme, focuses on moving the aftermarket forward instead of staying in neutral, slipping backwards down a hill, according to Dave Caracci, GAAS chairman. GAAS this year takes place May 20-21 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Chicago, and features speakers from around the United States, Europe and Asia. In fact, it’s that diversity that Caracci is particularly excited about. Even the programs from closer to home are appealing offerings.

“Kathleen Schmatz CEO of AAIA (the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) will disclose the findings of a comprehensive study on telematics and how this technology may pose threats or opportunities to the independent aftermarket,” he says. “Before this study, only the new car manufacturers and some of their suppliers really knew how telematics could affect the balance of market power between the new car dealer and the independent repair shop.”

Some highlights of this year’s GAAS include “The Shifting OE Scene from Detroit to Tokyo, to Shanghai, to New Delhi” by Neil De Koker, president and CEO Original Equipment Suppliers Association on how carmakers respond to increased U.S. fuel efficiency standards, technology, hybrids and flex fuel vehicles. Another presentation is “Let’s Talk: Promoting Dialogue Among Suppliers and Technicians.” Steve Handschuh, president and COO of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), and Ron Pyle, president of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), will discuss visits ASA committees made to AutoZone and Auto Value as well as the manufacturers’ perspectives on the issue.

“This year more than ever before, we have really ‘gone global’ by taking a closer look at various emerging aftermarkets other than NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement),” Caracci states. “Between the Internet and the emergence of more and more multi-national business enterprises, doing business in the NAFTA aftermarket without considering the influences of the international market is no longer an option.”

Other presentations include “Mega Trends Facing the Global Automotive Industry: Lessons Learned from Around the World,” “Decision Makers — What Drives Today’s Independent Repair Shop Owner to choose One Parts Source Over Another?” and “Private Equity and the Aftermarket,” among others. Click here for a complete list of presentations, speakers and their bios.

“For something completely different, we have John Washbish of Affinia doing a panel called ‘Family Affair.’ Despite mergers and acquisitions, the aftermarket continues to be an industry of family owned and operated businesses,” Caracci says. “John himself comes out of a family business and has put together a panel of next generation leaders. This should be fascinating as they look at how they have retained the legacy of their family business, while bringing new ideas to meet the challenges of today’s market.”

And like previous years, the R.L. Polk & Co. Inventory Efficiency Award will be presented, and the University of the Aftermarket will have its Leadership 2.0 Team presentation.

Proceeds from GAAS benefit the GAAS Scholarship. Last year, the fund awarded 154 $1,000 scholarships to students in the United States and Canada.

Caracci notes that he hasn’t been impressed with today’s efforts in educating America’s youth or promoting the aftermarket, but support from the GAAS scholarships is different.

“With 100 percent of GAAS scholarships going to young people pursuing a career in the aftermarket the people that have registered and attended GAAS in the past can take satisfaction in knowing that their registrations have helped over one thousand students pursue an aftermarket education,” he says. “And, those that attend this year can be assured that they are supporting some of the next one thousand aftermarket graduates.

To be eligible for a GAAS scholarship, applicants must be enrolled full-time in a college-level program or a National Automotive Technician Education Foundation (NATEF) certified automotive technical program. Recipients who graduate from their program and show proof of employment as a technician in the automotive aftermarket for at least six months after graduation can receive a second matching grant.

The scholarship has presented more than $1.3 million in awards in its 13-year history.

In fact, attendees benefit in an educational matter as well. They will receive 1.0 continuing education units (CEUs) toward the University of the Aftermarket’s AAP/MAAP designation in store operations, information systems, manufacturer, marketing/sales management, WD principal or warehouse operations.

“Things in the aftermarket are changing faster than ever, with competition coming from more places around the globe literally every minute.  What is the most efficient way to learn of the changes?” Caracci poses. “We can sit in the offices and conferences rooms of our firms and hope we hear about threats and opportunities. Or we can fly around the globe at great expense, visiting suppliers and customers, to hear what's happening. Or we can fly to Chicago and spend two days at GAAS, hearing from dozens of aftermarket experts from around the world.”

Click here to download a registration form. Stories of previous GAAS events also are available.

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