Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2007   by Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor


It has been, by all accounts, a heck of a year.

Coming off a 2006 that was difficult for some and impossible for others, this past 12 months never ceased to surprise, no easy task considering the unpredictability of the market that already existed.

Chief among the larger factors has to be the Canadian dollar. As proud as it made some of us feel to have a dollar that was soundly pummelling the greenback of our friends to the south, it did the manufacturing economy no good north of the border.

The math is, as I am sure you have heard all too often, undeniable; whether you have an existing contract to sell south of the border or are seeking to get one, a swing of more than 10% in only a few short months makes life very difficult.

Add to this the impact on your purchasing power from an import standpoint, and you have a recipe for some pretty significant structural change in buying and selling patterns. Wherever that loonie settles, however, most will agree that the worst part of the rise of the dollar is the fluctuation. Let’s hope that it finds a new level soon, and stays there so that we can all get our pricing and planning in order.

Of course, on the local front, my front doorstep has been the site of so much activity it was hard to keep up.

Toronto, long considered to be a unique market unto itself, saw several significant changes. Early in the year, Vast Auto, based in Montreal, purchased the business operations of Base Automotive in Toronto, a fellow Auto Parts Alliance member. The systems changeover is almost complete, only a few short months later. Then Vast Auto purchased controlling interest in Redfern Automotive, a Bestbuy member in Toronto’s west end (Base is on the east side) that was as much small WD as it was large jobber.

Not to be outdone, World Automotive made a big leap to a larger, better warehousing facility in mid-year.

And then the year was capped off with the announcement that Uni-Select was going to take over Replacement Parts Depot Limited, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

While that acquisition will take a little while to complete, it is notable in that it was, as stated, a move to secure a stronger position for Uni-Select in the Toronto market. That much is obvious; what may be less well known to those outside the local market is that a significant number of RPDL customers were also Uni-Select members.

Dare I say that our friends at PartSource have also been very active of late, and I am sure they will be announcing a deal or two before long. Carquest expanded its Toronto holdings with a new store, too. Virtually every group, large and small, is paying attention to The Big Smoke, as well as other major markets across the country.

All this activity may be a little unsettling, but when major players are looking to invest in the most competitive market in Canada, it gives me great confidence in the entire Canadian aftermarket; the smart money only invests when it is confident of a return.

With all this activity, it is no wonder that more than a few members of the automotive aftermarket are pining for a little stability, a little respite. I think we all crave that in times of dramatic change. I just wouldn’t advise holding your breath waiting for it. Happy New Year.

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