Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2003   by Bob Blans

AIA Update: The Start of a New Era

It hasn’t been an easy year for chairman Sean Corcelli and the executive committee of Automotive Industries Association of Canada.

Following a membership survey done shortly after the 2002 Canadian International Automotive Show in Toronto last May, a significant number of suppliers, wholesalers, and WD principals made it clear to Corcelli and the other members of the executive committee, including 1st vice-chairman Ken Coulter, 2nd vice-chairman Larry Jefferies, immediate past president Peter Tekker, and association president Ray Datt, that the 2004 Canadian International Automotive (CIA) Show had to be cancelled.

Consequently, many decisions had to be made to make sure that AIA continues to be a vibrant association and meets the needs of its members.

“From these meetings the message was clear,” says Corcelli. “Cancel the 2004 show, reduce programs that were ineffective or duplicated by WDs, reduce costs, and focus on the following four principles:

1) Government relations (at all levels).

2) Information resources (market research and training resources).

3) Networking (special events and membership development).

4) Image (career promotion in the industry, communications, and industry relations).”

The CIA Show was a major revenue provider for the association. Corcelli explains how this income will be offset in the future.

First, AIA staff has provided the executive board with a 2003 budget in keeping with the four focus themes. Corcelli says the budget is considerably leaner than it was in previous years because the operating budget of the association has been significantly reduced. Second, he says, dues will increase in all member categories. The increases will range from 10% to 30%. Jobbers–the drivers of the industry–will only be asked to support a 10% increase in fees during this transition period. Suppliers and WDs are being asked for a 30% increase. The good thing, according to Corcelli, is that feedback from the WD and supplier membership has been positive. “The money that was once invested in a show that had minimal impact will be at least partially re-contributed through increased dues. That shows that support for the association remains strong.”

Corcelli notes that a special sponsorship program (Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Supporter) has been offered to suppliers, WDs and all allied members, and that many of them have already committed to the program.

These sponsorships would be renewed annually and allow suppliers sponsorships at all the events throughout the year, whether it be the convention in P.E.I., the Automotive Aftermarket Forum in Toronto, or the AIA website newsletter. The sponsorships would apply to all national events and activities.

He also notes that all of the major WDs have embraced the Group Marketing Concept, where all of their jobbers could become members at a discount of up to 40% off their annual dues, invoiced through the servicing WD.

One additional area that AIA is exploring is enhancing its relationship with its U.S. counterparts, such as the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). Another is the AAPEX Show in Las Vegas, where the AIA could organize a Canadian pavilion as a dedicated area to promote the association and the Canadian automotive aftermarket. And then there is the “Be Car Care Aware” program, a major AAIA campaign in the U.S. to make consumers aware of the consequences of the huge lack of maintenance on their vehicles.

“These initiatives are based on the premise that we should not be trying to reinvent the wheel,” says Corcelli. “We can tag on to some of the programs already put in place by our big cousins.

“They could also help us save money,” Corelli explains.

He says that implementing change is always difficult. “But the consoling and consistent message from members time and again has been: ‘We believe in the association. We wish to support the association; just shift your gears, and refocus on the areas where we believe AIA can be most effective.'”

Corcelli sees the upcoming P.E.I. convention this May, “A View from the Bridge,” as a key event. “After that, I for one believe that regional conventions should be continued, especially for those members who have traditionally supported the concept.

“I’m also anxious for the 2003 regional conference in Red Deer, Alta., to succeed so that we can continue to take the AIA to the regions across our great Canadian automotive aftermarket.

“And,” Corcelli concludes, “remember that the AIA is the voice and the resource for the automotive aftermarket industry in Canada, with a mandate to promote, educate, and represent members in all areas.”

This is the first in an exclusive monthly series of interviews with individuals at the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, to help keep the automotive aftermarket industry informed of association activities and developments.

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