Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2000   by Andrew Ross, Editor


On the same day as various dignitaries gathered in Montreal to officially launch the run-up to the Canadian International Automotive Show this April–a point of unity for the Canadian automotive aftermarket which comes but once every two years– another set of dignitaries was tabling a bill in Quebec City which spells out the rules for breaking up the country. The irony was not lost on me; while businesspeople inside and outside la Belle Province work in their daily lives to break down borders and barriers, Quebec’s government of the day works as tirelessly to put them up.

It is true that this time the feds took the fight to them, but it’s the PQ’s fight to begin with, or at least the fight of those who sympathize with that view.

While I don’t support the separatist view, I must add that in a free country, people must be allowed to think as they want and act accordingly. That, of course, must go for both sides of the argument.

But politics aside, what the paradox of these two events highlighted–that is, the AIA’s meeting and the PQ’s rules of referendum–was how different groups of people can see the “right road” so differently. In the macro-economic view, the world is looking for ways to work together, at least for commerce. Within the North American context, this has brought us NAFTA and all its positives and negatives. Yet within Quebec there is a contingent that sees their path to prosperity–both economic and cultural–to be through becoming a separate entity. Without discussing the myriad ways that this is in conflict with the prevailing economic wisdom, it’s certainly true that those outside that group, whether they be The Rest of Canada or The Rest of Quebec, cannot hope to see the logic in the separatist argument.

It makes me wonder if the same thing isn’t true, on a much smaller scale, in the aftermarket. While there are a great many within the distribution chain, manufacturers, warehouse distributors and jobbers, who value independence, that certainly has not been the overall trend; consolidation and strategic alliance were the catchphrases of the ’90s. But on the installer side, the large chains have been retreating from the service arena and pursuing the pop and chip business instead.

This is just one of the ways that the reality of the installer’s business is very different from yours. I wonder how many ways it affects the psychology of the shop owner, how they view your business in the context of theirs–friend, foe, necessary evil, trusted partner, marriage of convenience?

I am sure we all have realized for a very long time–if not forever–that the installer is of critical importance to the aftermarket. In terms of a supply chain, the installer has been the rogue link: it’s not missing, because we know where it is, but it’s certainly not connected?

As we enter the chronological equivalent of the odometer rollover, 2000 is such a nice round number, it is important that we all work to bring the installer closer to the rest of the aftermarket. Their concerns, priorities and culture, will usually be different, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of the whole; a distinct part if you will, but nonetheless a part of the greater whole. And that is a sentiment worth repeating.


We’ll look at several Undercar segments plus developments in the Wiper Blade market in February, plus new products and the latest news from around the country and the industry.

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