Last year's AAPEX show was a rather disappointing affair, with exhibitors complaining of poor attendance and fewer companies taking booth space. This year's AAPEX event, while showing signs of improve...
Last year’s AAPEX show was a rather disappointing affair, with exhibitors complaining of poor attendance and fewer companies taking booth space. This year’s AAPEX event, while showing signs of improvement, was a low-key affair with companies displaying more modest booths and staff focused on renewing or building sales relationships, and foregoing anything like the old razzmatazz-sales and over-the-top product demos of years before.
While exhibitors explained their more modest booths were in response to the continuing recession in North America, the mood was more upbeat at several of the industry seminars. The AAIA Town Hall covered several topics that should be taken note of by Canadian independents.
In fact, the panelists said there were several forces that bode well for independents.
The first is the aging vehicle fleet. As people hold onto their cars longer, they will spend more for ongoing maintenance and repair work on those vehicles. The rise in new vehicle sales, driven by the much-maligned ‘cash for clunkers’ program in the States, has an upside as well. Many of these new vehicles have very advanced technologies and the rising proliferation of diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles means independents have an opportunity to cash-in on the service and maintenance work these vehicles will need. It will require that independents invest in upgrading the skills and technical knowledge of their technicians and front-line counter staff, but it is an investment that will pay-off handsomely in the long-run.
As well, the panelists also put a lot of importance on independents working to improve shop efficiencies through better shop practices and communications, and through developing stronger relationships with suppliers. This will be important as competition will increase, not only between independents, but with the remaining dealership service operations.
This is something I and various other studies of the aftermarket have been saying for some time now. Success will depend on investments in training, shop communications and processes to improve efficiencies, and relationships with suppliers who can help drive sales by quickly and accurately filling parts orders.
The next few years will likely shake-up the independent landscape with vehicle owners demanding a higher quality of service, from repairs done right the first time to shops having to be more accommodating to tight home and work schedules. Consumers will reward quality and honesty with loyalty; they are just as quick to take it away when they believe an independent has failed to meet the expectations of customer service and quality of work. And the Internet’s ability to make or break a reputation should not be forgotten. Excellent work is rewarded with strong word of mouth promotion online; a smudge of grease left on the car’s dash or a surly attitude by a service writer or technician can just as quickly be used to sully a shop’s reputation.
Not every independent will be able to meet those challenges or make the necessary investments needed for them to succeed, but the ones that do will see more customers and profits as a result.
The next few years will likely shake-up the independent landscape with vehicle owners demanding a higher quality of service, from repairs done right the first time to shops having to be more accommodating to tight home and work schedules.