Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2003   by Auto Service World

Convention Reports: Aftermarket Must Lead, Not Follow

In a two-pronged attack, consultant and Jobber News columnist Bob Greenwood says that the profit crisis in the aftermarket industry is of our own making.

Making similar presentations to both the national convention in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and the first Western Regional Convention in Red Deer, Alta., Greenwood said change must come.

“We are the aftermarket industry, yet for some reason we are failing to recognize this. We are following the automotive industry. This industry needs entrepreneurship like it has never needed it before, yet profit continues to be a dirty word.

“You’re running a business out there; what are you interested in, sales or net profit?”

Too often, he says, the focus is on sales, hoping that the net profit will take care of itself. What this breeds, however, is activity, not profit. Working hard, not working smart, so to speak.

“A snapshot is not what it’s about anymore. The role of the WDs and manufacturers has desperately got to change. We have to recognize that if the garage doesn’t sell that starter, everyone else is affected. And yet for some reason, we don’t care.

“You have never approached your industry asking how you can help and pay your fair share.” The new entrepreneur will, he says. “We need an entrepreneurial spirit to be reborn.”

The type of entrepreneur required is, however, not the same as it used to be. It requires a disciplined approach that is different today.

“We are a new industry today. We have to change. The new entrepreneur will look at sales, and measure gross profit. They look at the points. There is much more to the picture than we ever thought of before.”

He urged jobbers to seriously consider the entrepreneur in each jobber business. “He doesn’t think in quarters or seasons. He is thinking three to five years down the road. We are losing market share because we follow. We are losing it to the dealerships. We are not leading; we are following.

“We need true entrepreneurs. The better jobbers do have a vision. The better service providers do have a vision. They are usually the higher door rate business. They never let their client down. These jobbers are moving their business forward, and never let their clients down. Then they got refocused. They understand the ramifications of every move, but they have a vision and they always keep it in mind.”

More accounts of the AIA conventions are available at Search for “AIA Convention” in Daily News.

No Agreement on Future Path WD Panel Airs Conflicting Views

A panel of warehouse distribution executives failed to reach agreement on whether the aftermarket is facing a crisis, or just an evolution; on whether serious action must be taken to address issues, or whether everything will work out on its own.

Bob Battis of the NAPA Atlantic division, standing in for NAPA Canada president Larry Samuelson, said that there simply needs to be more focus on training to improve the lot of the service provider. “We have to really encourage jobbers to sell the merits of training programs,” he said.

“In my mind it is going to be very difficult for independent service providers to get back their market share,” countered Michel Maheux, executive vice-president, Uni-Select Inc. “We have to look at who controls the bays. Specialists have been gaining market share and they have, over time, become generalists.”

Probably the most controversial comments of the day were from Robert Blair, president of Carquest Canada. “I think that the future of the service provider is better than it ever has been,” he said. “The laws of economics will take hold. The fact is that there is a shortage in all the trades. The governments have begun to realize that there are career options that need to be addressed.” Increased attention by government, he says, will result in an increase in apprentices entering the market.

Blair also said that some competition does not concern him. “I’m not worried one bit about the specialists,” he added, continuing that specialty chains are suffering severe financial issues of their own.

Pat Gorman, Pat’s Auto Supply, and Ted Reevey, Autotec Inc., were named as co-recipients of the AIA Distinguished Service Award, the association’s highest honour. Receiving his award in Red Deer, Gorman said that sharing the award with Reevey, a personal friend, made it double the honour.


The Atlantic Division was named Division of the Year, with the Manitoba Division being named as the Most Improved Division.


Canada has to take care of its place in international relations better if it wants to capitalize on its strengths, said Frank McKenna, former premier of New Brunswick, in his keynote address.

He told automotive aftermarket executives that the political gaffs that have filled headlines were a serious issue.

“The quicker we get to these [political] changes the better, because we have some big issues facing Canada. We have a lot of good things going for us, but we also have a lot of issues we have to deal with. Issue number one is repairing our relationship with the U.S.”