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Industry Newsmaker Q&A Chris Gardner, AASA

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 06:00
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As senior vice president of operations at the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), Chris Gardner has been taking an active role in the marketing rollout and promotion of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

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During last fall’s Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) in Las Vegas, Gardner moderated an ADAS forum of industry experts pertaining to retrofitting the technology onto existing cars.

And at a January ADAS Briefing conducted by the Specialty Equipment Market Association at the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, Calif., Gardner discussed the need for cross-industry collaboration on standardizing ADAS procedures, terminology, training and certification of technicians and shops.

At the session he introduced an acronym for addressing technology challenges in the aftermarket: CITE, which stands for Collaboration, Innovation, Training and Education.

Gardner also announced AASA’s newest subgroup, the Mobility Technology Council (MTC), dedicated to advancing the business interests of suppliers of mobility technology applications for the aftermarket – highlighting its two initiatives: Accessing telematic/vehicle data and helping the repair community service ADAS-enabled vehicles.

He recently responded to a series of questions posed by Aftermarket Business World:

Q: It seems that most of the larger auto parts chains are offering relatively basic ADAS devices such as backup cameras and dashcams rather than lane departure and other more sophisticated products; does this mean that this category is still more of a “12-volt” audio store or installation shop item? When can we expect ADAS to be on mass aftermarket retailer shelves?

A. Great question. Retailers have been evaluating this category for some time, but I think the demand has not risen to the point of justifying the stocking a broad spectrum of ADAS retrofit products. There is an expectation that this will become a billion-dollar category over the next few years. I would add that there are a lot of ADAS products available through mobile electronics retail stores and online.

Q: How big of a seller are these lines? Do particular products move better than others?

A: I do not have insight into growth rates of specific categories. I understand that backup cameras are the best-selling category. Other categories include park assist, lane change warning, backup alarms and forward collision alerts.

Q: Has ADAS caught on with the motoring public yet? Or are people still holding back, recalling suction cups that don’t stick right, etc.?

A: This is not widespread yet. First, the price point needs to continue to decrease on some items. Second, consumers do not understand, nor are they comfortable with, passive ADAS systems. Plus, I am not even sure many motorists are aware of the available ADAS products beyond backup cameras.

Q: Are the various products relatively easy to install? Is this much of a DIY category? Or is it more of a “12-volt” shop DIFM segment?

A: It depends on the product area. Backup cameras and dash-mounted products can fall into the DIY category. However, ADAS products involving sensors that detect motion, movement, speed, impeding vehicles, etc. require careful installation and calibration that are beyond the average DIYer.

Q: The American Automobile Association (AAA) says that OEM ADAS adds considerably to collision repair bills when the equipment is damaged in a crash; is this problem reduced with aftermarket ADAS units?

A: This would depend on the system. My previous answer addresses this, but it really depends on the calibration setup and process required.

Q: AAA is calling for the industry to decide on what names to call the various products to promote better clarity. You participated in a January Specialty Equipment Market Association presentation on this topic at the SEMA Garage in California; how well was it attended, and what was the reaction of the attendees?

A: It was a privilege to participate on a panel during SEMA’s recent ADAS Briefing. About 70 industry leaders attended the event, and SEMA did a great job collecting input from every individual in the room.

The two major takeaways by a large margin were the need for standardizing naming conventions and terminology, and I have heard this from others in the industry, and the need for multiple organizations and associations to work together to help the industry prepare for servicing ADAS.

Helping the independent repair community service ADAS-equipped vehicles is also one of the two major initiatives by AASA’s new organization – the Mobility Technology Council (MTC).

Q: Are there particular vehicle models that are more attractive among ADAS purchases?

A. First, understand that commercial vehicles have received a lot of attention in this area and have led the way. Since retrofit ADAS systems are passive and not integrated with the vehicle controls, they can be installed on a wide range of passenger vehicles.

Q: How can a retailer or shop owner improve his/her marketing of ADAS products and services?

A. First, training is required to properly install and calibrate the systems. Then, I would recommend accessing the research data produced by SEMA, the Mobile Electronics Association and Vision Zero Network to arm themselves with information on how these products will reduce traffic accidents. Shops could then bake that data into their marketing efforts.

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