After two years apart, much of the automotive aftermarket reunited in Las Vegas to take part in AAPEX and the SEMA Show. For many, it was their first trade event since the global COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Many people remarked that attending the show was the first time they had been on a plane since then. Still, you could see smiles and genuine excitement behind the masks and face coverings.
Attendees of AAPEX make their way to the exhibit hall of the Sands Expo.
Final crowd numbers have not yet been tabulated. SEMA did note that with more than 1,300 exhibiting companies and 51,000 buyers confirmed, its show was the first full-capacity event at the Las Vegas Convention Center since the pandemic started. AAPEX show organizers did note that domestic registrations were generally on par but international attendees were drastically down.
And the drop in numbers was noticeable. Floors of both shows were smaller — whether that was the size of booths or the number of people on the exhibit floor. Foot traffic at AAPEX was noticeably thinner. The usual expansive international section of the first floor was not there. While SEMA appeared to be jam-packed early on, crowds seemed to dissipate later in the week.
SEMA Show attendees walk the exhibit floor of the upper south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Nevertheless, it was a success to pull off both shows with a strong turnout considering the circumstances. The lighter crowd may not have allowed for the usual number of conversations but it did create opportunities for deeper conversations.
AAPEX kicked off with its usual Opening Keynote session. The annual State of the Aftermarket presentation by Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of Auto Care Association, and Paul McCarthy, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association. Both talked at length about the need for upping the urgency around right to repair.
About 900 people took in the AAPEX Opening Keynote on Nov. 2.
They were followed by the Buyer Panel, which featured Tom Greco, president and CEO of Advance Auto Parts, Kevin Herron, president and COO of Genuine Parts Co., Gregory Johnson, CEO and co-president of O’Reilly Auto Parts, Bill Rhodes, president and CEO of AutoZone, Corey Bartlett, president and CEO of Automotive Parts Headquarters and Sue Godschalk, president of Federated Auto Parts. Karyn Schoenbart, CEO of The NPD Group, moderated the discussion.
They also hammered right to repair as a key issue going into 2022. Other issues identified included the talent shortage plaguing the industry.
Other sessions throughout the week included a panel on coaching, a presentation on the outlook on aftermarket retail, how shops need to prepare for electric vehicles, getting more women as technicians, the ever-popular 5 Trends in 5 Minutes and more. There was also Joe’s Garage, which was a look in the future of vehicle repair.
5 Trends in 5 minutes, hosted by IHS Markit’s Todd Campau.
Stay tuned to AutoServiceWorld.com for more from these sessions and more. And please enjoy the photo gallery below.