When the Panama Canal was constructed roughly 100 years ago, it paved the way for this Latin American country to become a commercial hub by connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This year’s Latin Auto Parts Expo served a similar function last month – serving as a focal point for auto parts trade in the region by offering buyers and exhibitors an opportunity to connect at the inaugural event.
Held July 9-11 at the Atlapa Convention Center in Panama City, the convention is owned by Latin Expo Group LLC, headquartered in Miami with an office in Panama. The show attracted nearly 200 exhibitors and buyers from throughout the region, including Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, the Caribbean Islands and elsewhere. The Auto Care Association, formerly the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), served as a partner for the event attracting its U.S.-company members to an Auto Care Pavilion at the Expo.
“This is the gateway to all of Latin America,” said Andres Castrillon, director of International Trade, for the Auto Care Association. “This is a great place to do business through. We wanted to support a show where our members could come and talk to buyers throughout the region.”
Castrillon says the show is a prime example of what the association is doing to help identify markets and potential markets for its U.S. members who want to expand internationally. “To do that effectively we really need to have an international footprint,” he said. “It’s tough to get partners and potential partners excited about our members if they haven’t heard of the association.”
Castrillon said the Auto Care Association’s executive committee identified Latin America as one of two areas of the world that they wanted to focus on. China would be the other.
“As more and more people are driving cars there, and China feels the global growth, our members want to know what role we can play in building up the Chinese aftermarket,” he said. “(Members) really want market intelligence. If you want to develop an export plan you have to know which markets to target, what the vehicle footprint looks like. If your parts don’t fit the vehicles in a particular market, that’s not a good export market for you.”