Clockwise from top left: John Treece, Bob Cushing, Bill Moss, and Malcolm Sissmore discuss the state of the aftermarket and what 2021 could look like.
By Allan Janssen
Despite fears of a lingering pandemic, a panel of well-placed aftermarket executives agrees there is room to be optimistic about the industry’s prospects for the next 15 months.
Speaking on an AAPEX webinar this week, Bob Cushing, president and CEO of Worldpac, said brisk sales, improved car counts, extended hours of operation, and the rehiring of furloughed employees are all great signs.
“Obviously everyone is really bullish about what they’re seeing right now,” he said. “Overall, what you’re seeing is a nice recovery across all the markets. Importantly, car owners are prioritizing the importance of their vehicles for travel, staying safe and healthy compared to using commercial travel, and that is a key driver of miles driven.”
One of the biggest challenges for the supplier and distribution communities is maintaining an optimal staffing level to support the business in the recovery, he said.
“In the short term, the (Covid) situation is very hard to predict. There are so many variables,” he said. “But overall, what I’ve heard from the supplier community is they are cautiously optimistic, and everyone is remaining bullish on the industry.”
The annual “Five Trends in Five Minutes” session was presented virtually this year, with a flurry of facts on new vehicle sales, miles driven, age of fleet, consumer trends, and powertrain evolution.
Following the presentation of the latest data by Todd Campau, associate director of aftermarket solutions at IHS Markit, a panel of industry executives took over to offer their take on the trends.
Moderator John Treece of president and CEO of Direct Market Access Sales posed questions to Cushing; Malcolm Sissmore, vice president of sales for Delphi Aftermarket; and Bill Moss, owner of EuroService Automotive in the Washington, D.C. area.
Peterborough, Ont-based Sissmore, who is well-known in the Canadian aftermarket, agreed that the industry has reason to be bullish.
“We are seeing Q4 shaping up to being strong,” he said. “When you look at the vehicles in operation (VIO) data, the fleet is actually getting older and bigger. So while we expect that 2021 is certainly going to be better than 2020, it could also be better than 2019.”
He acknowledged that supply chain issues will continue to be challenging, given the dramatic downturn early in the year and an unpredictable path upward.
With characteristic understatement, Moss described 2020 as “a ride” summarizing the challenge of the pandemic as being the Q2 lockdown which prevented consumers from tending to accrued service needs through Q1. And following Q2, service needs have not been accruing at a normal pace.
Most of miles driven seen this year were during long road trips which are comparative gentle on vehicles compared to the stop and start of normal commuting.
“I hate to say it but the real grunt sort of driving environment produces more failures,” he said. “The leisurely drive to Florida for vacation is pretty easy on the car, and doesn’t give that steady day-to-day hammering on the car.”