There was a time not too long ago when the biggest car care concern was how to sell more wax and polish during May Car Care Month. Today, the Car Care initiative has expanded to encompass many regulatory issues, as well as promoting a wide range of maintenance issues for the consumer.
Using the “Be Car Care Aware” branding, the U.S.-led initiative has had some success putting a dent into the estimated $60 billion U.S. in unperformed maintenance, as well as forging new, stronger links with legislators.
In Canada, this initiative has yet to hit the ground quite so fully formed, but that is just around the corner. Still, the realities of the need to improve access and impact on the aftermarket are hard to ignore.
The Canadian aftermarket certainly has its peculiarities when compared to the U.S., but weather and the nature of large players such as Canadian Tire notwithstanding, the U.S. statistics are compelling.
The motor vehicle aftermarket industry is one of the largest U.S. employers, and contributes 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In Canada, the numbers are equivalent.
As in the U.S., the automotive aftermarket industry has massive potential growth, having grown by 4% in 2001 south of the border. In the U.S., also, some 2.6% of the population work in the industry, which puts it just outside the top 10 industries in terms of its contribution to the GDP.
According to industry figures, more than 5% of all vehicle accidents result from unperformed vehicle maintenance. The good news is that simple and inexpensive steps such as properly inflating tires, securing gas caps, and routine check-ups can help increase the safety of vehicles, benefit the environment, save money and protect their investment.
On the more serious, long-term side, the push for improved access to repair information is an initiative that has significant impact on the future of the aftermarket. What the U.S. calls “Right to Repair” has yet to gain much traction in the Canadian market, but that is likely about to change.
In the meantime, there are some immediate actions you can take to prepare.
Promote car care issues in your market.
Simple promotion of car care facts, while seemingly straightforward, can still be beneficial to you and your customers.
Contact newspapers in your local market and provide them with car care bulletins and tips. Be aware that they may want you to put together an advertising program. Many community newspapers don’t distinguish well between advertising and editorial, so this may be the only way to promote the concept, but try to include key customers in your advertising.
Radio spots are the broadcast equivalent of these, and many of the same rules apply. If you have the right voice and the right knowledge–or one of your customers does–you may be able to work some of your own spots in, but since many car shows are now syndicated, this is more difficult than it would have been in the past.
Use your manufacturers’ resources. Many co-op advertising programs include ad slicks and other materials, as well as cost splitting.
Contact your customers and federal Member of Parliament regarding access to information. If your customers are telling you there is a problem, communicate this on their behalf. Do it in writing, and send a copy to the Automotive Industries Association of Canada. It is important to be diplomatic in your language and explain the full scope of the problem. You may also want to enlist your local AIA field rep for his assistance.
We all want change, but it is important to communicate as professionals.
Car care bulletins, radio spots, service interval schedule, graphics and a full planning guide, though some of the materials should be modified to indicate Canadian sensibilities and the fact that May is our Car Care Month, not April as in the U.S.
Also, contact your suppliers, many of whom will have product-specific maintenance information and promotional resources.