Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2005   by Andrew Ross

Industry Week: Too Much Is Not Enough

There is no question that consolidation has become as much a part of the aftermarket exhibition industry as it has of the aftermarket itself, and it poses some of the same challenges.

For example, how does the editor of a magazine handle all interview requests from a couple of thousand exhibitors during Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week’s SEMA and AAPEX shows? And, more importantly, how does one fit those interview requests around the mandatory entertainment of Las Vegas? It is a tough juggling act to be sure, but along the way some newsworthy points do collect in the bottom of the briefcase.

Certainly the exhibit halls of the AAPEX show were filled with chatter regarding the changes at Affinia. For the most part, there aren’t that many changes–brands are remaining as they were and the Canadian organization will retain the status quo–but none of this stopped visitors and press pundits alike from obsessing over it.

As far as announcements are concerned, companies didn’t even wait for the show to start to make theirs. AutoXray announced its sale to SPX on the Monday prior to the show’s start, at an event that was two parts fun, three parts technology.

In an event conducted in conjunction with Eaton Corporation, journalists were taken flying aboard WWII Chinese fighter-trainers. Some of the journalists showed they didn’t take to the stir-fried fun, but the Eaton technology that awaited those with their land legs was no less notable. The technology essentially uses high-end cell phone technology as the interface for diagnostics. This has been developed for the heavy truck fleet market, and is being applied to the automotive market. It’s a neat technology, harking back to the use of Palm Pilots as an interface, something that has yet to really take off. It remains a technology to be watched.

Also on the development front is Tenneco Automotive’s shock testing pilot project. While this technology has been in use for several years in Europe and sporadically in the U.S., Tenneco is likely to be the first to embark on a pilot project that includes Canada. For those who are not aware, ride control testers or suspension testers–sometimes incorrectly referred to as shock dynos, which are really off-car devices–look a lot like a chassis dyno used for emission testing or horsepower ratings. Rather than having a rolling road surface, however, they excite the suspension in place and measure how well the car’s ride control keeps the oscillations within acceptable limits. Once a suitable database of new vehicle parameters has been gathered, which should currently exist, the technology has been shown to accurately detect degraded ride control even on individual corners of the vehicle.

The equipment may go a long way to helping the consumer understand the impact of degraded ride control, though the proliferation of this approach will depend on economics more than technology, which is already proven. Business plans are already being pulled together, in both the U.S. and Canada. Stay tuned.

As far as technology that is already in the market, Delphi’s Smart Service System (S3) made its debut. The enhanced workshop management process and Version 5.0 software for the DS Series of products, including the DS800 and the DS600, uses a new icon-driven user interface. More than just a diagnostic tool, the S3 makes it easier for shops to integrate the repair process with their business processes.

Of course, for the repairs to go swimmingly, technicians need to have the right information. At a seminar on how to wade through manufacturers’ service data websites, discussions got quite heated as to how willingly, and how well, this data was made available. Remember here that we’re talking about the U.S., where the right to repair fight has been long-fought and moderately successful. Still, there was at least one individual from Toyota who took offense to criticisms of the websites as being hard to navigate, saying that the manufacturers were doing their utmost to help the independent, and didn’t appreciate the bashing going on. This claim raised the hackles of many technicians in the room, who countered that this was not something that the automakers had done without pressure, and that there wasn’t any “bashing” going on anyway, simply a realistic discussion of caveats and shortcomings.

The whole thing calmed down after a while (sort of), but it provided some welcome excitement to the events and also served to remind some of us that, even though we’re all in the car business, things can look very different depending on where you’re sitting.

I for one had a good time sitting in the back watching the sparks fly, something I rarely have the opportunity to do.


Counterfeit Crackdown Yields Results

With last year’s raid on counterfeit products still fresh in the minds of manufacturers, show organizers made successful efforts to crack down on counterfeiters and other intellectual property violators at the 2004 AAPEX show.

A total of 24 cases of suspected intellectual property violations were examined by a staff of three attorneys working with show management, according to show manager Bill Glasgow, Sr. “All cases were thoroughly and immediately investigated with the corrective actions taken to help protect the rights of the genuine manufacturer,” Glasgow said. “We take these issues very seriously, as we understand that a company’s most important asset–other than its people–is its intellectual property.”

Glasgow noted that two booths were shut down for non-compliance with the corrective measures. In all, 17 patent violations and 10 trademark violations were discovered. “Offending exhibitors were from both international and domestic companies, which demonstrates how global a problem this truly is,” Glasgow said.

In addition to the increased number of full-time attorneys onsite, AAPEX had eight security people dedicated to walking the floor to assist exhibitors with any brand protection issues and to enforce the show’s anti-camera policy.


Awards Aplenty at Industry Week

Three aftermarket manufacturers took top honours in the 2004 Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) New Packaging Awards.

Faculty and administrators from Northwood University, who judged this year’s awards, commented that this was the strongest group of entries in the history of the competition. New this year, the new packaging awards were an integral part of the improved New Products Showcase, which was prominent in the lobby of the Sands Expo Center, where AAPEX took place.

Winners in the inaugural competition were:

Allied International, Goodyear Racing 14 Piece Air Wrench Set

The Casite Co., Casite EZ Connect – Tire Repair – Emergency Tire Inflator

Federal Mogul Corp., Champion Spark Plug Family

Across town at the Specialty Equipment Market Associa-tion show catering to the performance and accessory set, new product winners in a host of categories were chosen from more than 1,100 entries.