Perspective: Some Good News In A Time Of Great Uncertainty

Our industry associations have a tough job. They take on tasks too big for us to handle individually. At times, the challenges seem insurmountable, and the odds of a successful outcome appear slim. In the current business climate, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and outnumbered with so many outside forces bearing down on the automotive aftermarket.

It’s an understatement to say that today’s business leaders are faced with uncertainty. Tariffs levied on goods imported into the United States and, in response, levied on products exported from the United States have caused disruption, to say the least. Adjusting supply chains away from China is no small task and nearly impossible to execute in the short term. Is it even the right call? At any moment, President Trump could decide to declare victory in the global trade fight and call off the tariffs.

Whether tariffs stay or go, uncertainty remains a reality for today’s aftermarket leaders. And, that uncertainty extends to passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which may get sidetracked by efforts to impeach the president. How does a company make decisions regarding new facilities, new personnel and new business when the future is so murky?

Then, there’s our seemingly perpetual battle with the automakers to protect our ability to service and maintain vehicles — a challenge made all the more difficulty by telematics and the reality that an automaker can restrict access to crucial information simply by altering some software.

Our industry associations are addressing these and many other issues, working on our behalf. For example, MEMA is hosting a fly-in event Oct. 23-24 in Washington, DC, to urge the Trump administration to not impose Section 232 tariffs on imported autos and auto parts.

Together, through groups like the Auto Care Association and AASA, we’re much stronger than we are as individuals. And, because of recent developments, we’re stronger now than we were just a few months ago.

I was elated when I heard that AASA and the Auto Care Association have forged a strategic partnership to advance the “Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice” consumer education campaign. The alliance will include activities aimed at raising awareness, educating the industry, and obtaining support for “Right to Repair” and access to data.

One example of this collaboration was a recent webcast that involved leaders from both associations, addressing why the vehicle data issue is important to the industry and consumers. This and initiatives like it make our position stronger, as well as present a united and more compelling case to consumers, legislators and regulators.

The automakers have the upper hand. They create the technology and dictate how their vehicles operate. They also have deep pockets. However, we have a compelling, pro-consumer message — one that resonates when our case is made. Additionally, we have numbers (there are more of us in terms of repair bays and workers), and we’re advocating for an expanded vehicle repair marketplace, not a limited one.

On a different front, I’m encouraged to hear about another blossoming partnership. It’s my understanding that organizers have begun planning for a 2020 event like last August’s Aftermarket IP Forum. I found the 2019 conference to be informative and timely. It involved a variety of organizations, and I hope that any future IP Forums have similar cross-association participation.

We’re so much stronger together, and there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

– Marc Vincent,
Editor

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