Everybody has an opinion about what happened in September and what should be done about it. I have one, too, but I’m not going to share it with you here.
You see, I also have an opinion about what this space should be used for. It can inform (I hope), provoke (I really hope), and entertain (ditto). I have been told by persons whose opinions I respect that it has done all of those. (It’s one of the key reasons I respect their opinions, actually.)
I also have an opinion about the opinions expressed in the various media. My heart goes out to those affected by the events of the past couple of months, but I feel that discussions of world events in the media should best be left to the experts–either employed or elected. This group does not include business people who have got it into their heads that just because they have been able to make a business deal or two, they are qualified to comment on the intricacies of world affairs, and that these opinions are suitable for mass consumption.
I’m happy to exercise my right to free speech at the dinner table or the bar, thank you very much, and wish more people would do the same. Enough said about that.
On to the economy. Regardless of the latest catalyst, we’ve seen this coming for some time. It started with the Great Dot-Con, migrated to real estate and new car sales sectors, and has now thoroughly entrenched itself in the travel sector.
While I write this before Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, I would be very surprised if this reaches you alongside talk of record attendance at what is still sure to be the biggest event of the year. So what does all this mean for the aftermarket?
That’s unsure really, but I do have an opinion. I think there is the distinct possibility that next year is going to be just fine, maybe even better than fine.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote in this space that the flatness of the aftermarket was going to be with us for about a year and a half. Time’s up, guys. There is nothing stopping the wave of vehicles currently entering their prime aftermarket years. They’re coming and they’re coming now.
While predictions are only approximately accurate at best, the fact remains that the aftermarket is driven by concrete factors like vehicle population mix, vehicle age, and miles driven. There is absolutely no evidence that these factors have been affected substantially by either world events or the roller coaster ride of fuel prices. Car sales may be affected, but this is neither necessarily good nor bad for the aftermarket, as it is really whether the used car stays on the road that matters, not who owns it.
Sure, there are overriding economic factors like layoffs that can have dramatic affects on individual population groups, but even layoffs of 20,000 pale in comparison to the 15 million vehicles on the road in Canada.
What will affect the aftermarket more than anything else is whether it can effectively and efficiently provide the parts and services the vehicle owners need or want, and whether it can do this in a way that provides enough value and quality to consumers to keep them coming back. Oh, and also whether it can do that and have the balls to charge for it.
That last point is, in my opinion, the most critical. There is absolutely no point in catering to a customer’s every need–whether that’s a garage or a consumer–if you’re not making a buck at it.
It can be done, but not for everybody. And, frankly, that’s not just my opinion.
— Andrew Ross, Editor
In the December issue of Jobber News, we take our annual look at the Remanufactured Parts Market. Plus, we’ll have a look at the Year in Review, and more.