AIA president J.F. Champagne at last year’s annual general meeting.
Auto parts and vehicle repairs are essential services, especially in a pandemic.
That’s the message the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA) is sending to legislators across the country, in an effort to ensure aftermarket businesses stay open even if others are forced to close.
AIA president Jean-Francois Champagne said the association will endeavour to convince federal and provincial authorities that auto parts and vehicle repairs are an essential part of the economy and should not be restricted during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As tougher regulations come into play to slow the spread of coronavirus, it would be a mistake to shut down businesses that keep emergency vehicles and essential transportation moving,” Champagne said.
San Francisco, which recently enacted a “Shelter In Place” order, exempted auto parts and auto repair services from a long list of retail businesses that must close in the interest of public safety.
Champagne would like Canadian authorities to do the same.
“Nurses, doctors, and first responders must be able to get around,” he said. “Critical goods, medicines, and food need to be transported. Essential vehicles will need to be repaired and maintained through this crisis.”
He said it is no help to have repair shops open to help first responders if they don’t have access to the parts they need.
“We’re trying to make sure everyone understands that,” he said.
AIA is also staying on top of government plans to compensate businesses and individuals who face economic harm due to the emergency.
The federal government has announced a new set of measures to help stabilize the economy, with up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses.
“I think the government is taking the right approach to provide relief to employees who are laid off, but we are advocating to government that employers will also face great hardships,” said Champagne. “They will need relief too ,whether it comes in the form of lighter tax burdens, or programs to help them keep the businesses functioning.”
As difficult as things may get in coming months, Champagne believes the industry’s fundamentals are strong and the aftermarket will quickly bounce back.
After the crisis or as it is ebbing, he pointed out that Canadians may not be willing or able to travel on airplanes.
“People’s vehicles are going to be more important to them than ever,” he said. “And as the economic toll of the pandemic becomes clear, it is likely many Canadians will want to keep their existing vehicles running, rather than buy a new one.
He believe vehicle maintenance will once again come off the “optional” list and return to the “mandatory” list of household expenditures.