The 7th Annual Canadian Automotive Aftermarket Forum being held this Thursday promises to be a real eye opener. “Shifting Gears: Canada’s Fit in the North American Market,” will focus on Canada’s role in the changing North American aftermarket. The one-day forum, presented by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, is being held November 21st at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto, Ont. It will include several speakers who will focus on trends in the North American aftermarket and the changing interface between all levels of the automotive aftermarket. The perspective of the top man at Carquest’s biggest member is sure to be notable. Temple Sloan, founder, chairman and CEO of General Parts, Inc. of North Carolina, the largest Carquest member and owner of Carquest Canada, will defend three-step distribution at this November’s Automotive Aftermarket Forum. Sloan will air his thoughts on the aftermarket in a presentation titled “A Defense of the 3-Step Distribution System.” Sloan’s views on three-step distribution are sure to offer great insight into the evolving framework of a three-step network. Last November, at the previous forum, some of the most compelling words–so soon after the events of September 11–came from the perennially thought-provoking economist and crystal ball gazer Dr. Michael Graham. In the 2001 edition of the forum, Graham predicted that economic recovery would be well along by now. “If the economy is going to turn sometime [in 2002], the stock markets are going to turn six to 12 months ahead of time. That’s the time when, in a matter of days or weeks, you make huge gains.” Wall Street, he said, had a trillion dollars parked on the side in institutional cash; Canada about 100 billion dollars, just waiting for the time to be right. “One day next year, something will happen, and all of that will start heading for the market together.” It shouldn’t need to be said, but the year is running out and the economic recovery is looking distinctly scattered. It will be interesting to see what his analysis will reveal about the reasons why, for instance, the Canadian economy appears to be chugging along more smoothly than that of the U.S. Beyond larger economic forces, the forum will focus on many issues that are forcing the aftermarket to change. One of these is branding, which will be tackled by an U.S. representative from the Automotive Aftermarket Industries Association. No doubt, one of the most lively and useful discussions will be the panel of car dealers who will talk about competition, vehicle technology, and an aging workforce. Aftermarket attendees may have more common ground with their competition than they may have realized. Last year, a panel of service providers offered both insight and challenges to the aftermarket. Echoing the words of other panel participants, Dennis Forbes, Forbes Service Centre, Hamilton, Ont., told the forum that more importance needed to be placed on the role of the counterperson. “My biggest point is that all the counter staff have had the appropriate training. It would be great if the jobber could put together a course so that our service people could go on a course with the counterpeople, so that maybe our service guy can sell the jobs that our technicians can fix. I think everyone would benefit from that.” It will be interesting to see how that priority fits into purchasing patterns at the dealership. More interesting, however, will be how Canada’s aftermarket seeks to fit into the larger whole of the North American market, or even if there is a place for a distinct Canadian aftermarket at all. That will be worth hearing about.
For more information on the presentations at the Annual Aftermarket Forum or to register, contact the Automotive Industries Association of Canada at (613) 728-5821 or log on to its website at www.aiacanada.com.