A committee of automotive aftermarket executives expressed its concern over human resource issues, regulations and cross-border issues at an automotive industry stakeholders meeting with Industry Minister Allan Rock Friday. At the Canadian Forum on Automotive Innovation and Investment meeting, aftermarket representatives included Automotive Industries Association of Canada president Ray Datt and several association members, including: Robert Blair of Carquest Canada Ltd. and the AIA chair of the Government Relations Committee, Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Don Hockin of Ultrafit Exhaust Systems, Owen MacManamon of Pennzoil-Quaker State Canada, Ezer Mevorach of Mevotech Inc., Rick Miller of ERI Engine Rebuilders Inc., and John Vanstone of Specialty Sales & Marketing. Industry Minister Allan Rock hosted the meeting that included a diverse group of Canadian automotive industry stakeholders to discuss how innovation can be applied to strengthen the auto sector’s global competitiveness and create new opportunities for growth. Ontario Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, James Flaherty also attended the meeting. The two agreed to work toward an integrated approach to strengthen the Canadian automotive industry. “We made great strides at the meeting in terms of aftermarket visibility with the government,” says Datt. “The contributions of the aftermarket to the Canadian economy were recognized and the government is looking to the aftermarket to make suggestions to address auto sector challenges in relation to skills, harmonization of regulations, attracting investment and re-investment to Canada and infrastructure, and border issues.” At the meeting, the association identified the priority issues for the aftermarket that it is working to solve.
Human Resource Shortage In the next few years, it is estimated that 50% of automotive service technicians will begin to retire; the industry and HRDC predict that there will be a growing shortage of skilled automotive technicians. Joint industry-government studies have lead to a series of recommendations in four main areas (attracting new entrants, skills gaps, apprenticeship training, and industry image) to address the human resource shortage issues facing the industry. The industry has acted on a number of these key initiatives and continues to work with federal government agencies and departments. AIA is pleased to see that the federal government recently released new immigration rules that should make it easier for skilled workers to enter the country, the aftermarket will work with government to ensure that automotive skill trades will be well-represented in those groups. The federal government introduced tool tax deductions for automotive service apprentices in the December 2001 Federal budget and the industry association is encouraging the government to expand the tool tax deduction to include all automotive service technicians.
Future of the Independent Installer The independent installer represents the core market for the traditional aftermarket. The independent installer has weaknesses in enhanced skills/training, lack of access to capital, and lack of critical mass. AIA in conjunction with a number of other automotive associations has begun to address these issues.
Wholesaler Succession/Rationalization Over 60% of entrepreneurs in the wholesale parts distribution business that responded to a recent industry survey indicated that they wished to be either semi or fully retired within the next 10 years. AIA has begun to investigate the potential impact of this issue on the industry overall.
Foreign Investment The aftermarket believes that more can be done to attract new investment to Canada by multi-national automotive aftermarket companies.
Environmental While AIA supports the introduction of many environmental programs and it recognizes that these regulations often fall under provincial jurisdictions, AIA would like to work with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to ensure provincial programs are similar to one another to ease the administrative burden on AIA member companies such as suppliers and warehouse distributors. AIA also prefers that any kind of environmental product fees be transparent to consumers so that they more fully understand the cost of the products involved.
Technology Issues As with many other industries, technology related issues are greatly impacting the aftermarket. For example, aftermarket access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems, assisting small business owners such as wholesale parts distributors and automotive repair facilities to embrace technology, access to capital to be at the leading edge of technology.
The Canadian Forum on Automotive Innovation and Investment brought together a broad group of vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, labor, industry associations, analysts and researchers and government representatives. The forum, which built upon bilateral consultations with automotive sector stakeholders undertaken over the last year, was part of a series of sectoral consultations designed to help shape Canada’s Innovation Strategy. At the conclusion of the forum, Minister Rock announced plans to establish a new Canadian Automotive Partnership Council that will identify and prioritize short and long-term actions required to strengthen the auto industry in Canada. The Council will include representatives from the aftermarket sector, CEOs from Canadian assemblers, the parts sectors, the head of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, and representatives from Canadian auto dealers and the academic community. The Ministers from Canada and Ontario will also participate. The appropriate Quebec minister will be invited. The Council will have its first meeting in August. “The goal for the AIA Government Relations Committee this year was to significantly raise the profile of the aftermarket with the federal, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia governments,” says Robert Blair, committee chairman. “This meeting hosted by Allan Rock and the announcement of the Automotive Partnership Council means that we have already achieved 75% of that goal.” The Council will also develop an automotive submission to the National Innovation Summit that Minister Rock and Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development, will chair in November. “AIA is encouraged to see that Minister Jane Stewart will also be involved in this strategy as so many of the challenges facing the aftermarket include human resource issues,” says Ray Datt “The aftermarket’s visibility with HRDC and Minister Stewart have been excellent thus far, so we are confident that the industry will be able to make significant gains as a result of the National Innovation Summit.”