More Than 2,500 Buyers Travel To Panama For The 2018 Latin Auto Parts Expo

The show kicked off with dancers, a band and an opening ceremony at night with yet another band and plenty of food for the many attendees. The convention center was bustling the moment organizers opened the show each morning.

Michael Dunne, Linda Bassitt, CEM, Alexandra Gonzalez, CEM and Gustavo Lima cut the ribbon, officially opening the 2018 Latin Auto Parts Expo in Panama. Photo by Mark Phillips
Show attendees at the Latin Auto Parts Expo opening night party. Photo by Mark Phillips

If there’s any country more connected to global trade than Panama, I’m not sure what it is.

With its name being almost synonymous with “Canal,” Panama is strategically located in Central America, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Nearly 14,000 ships make the journey yearly through the canal, which takes almost 12 hours. So, it’s fitting that the Latin Auto Parts Expo would hold its annual trade show here at the ATLAPA Convention Center. The 2018 edition, held July 25-27, was its fifth and attracted more than 300 international auto parts manufacturers and distributors, and more than 2,500 qualified buyers.

The WIX Filters/Mann-Hummel booth at the Latin Auto Parts Expo. Photo by Mark Phillips

The show kicked off with dancers, a band and an opening ceremony at night with yet another band and plenty of food for the many attendees. The convention center was bustling the moment organizers opened the show each morning.

“I would like to thank the professional Latin Expo Group for coordinating and hosting a very successful show,” Max Douglas, of Berryman Products, told show organizers. “My experience and take-away impression was that it was very professionally executed and the needs of the vendors around me were all met timely and satisfied with the results. The show buyer turnout was great. I was personally pleased with the results and leads accumulated for my after-show follow-up. This show filled a niche for my distribution into the Latin American countries.”

The Parts House booth at the Latin Auto Parts Expo. Photo by Mark Phillips

The educational conferences featured a number of speakers:

Gustavo Lima, CEO, Latin Expo Group, who gave opening statements and welcomed education conference attendees; Donny Seyfer (Co-Owner, Seyfer Automotive Inc.), The Effects of Advanced Vehicle Technology on Vehicles, Providers and Customers; Carlos Romeu (Commercial Director, M & J Sunshine Corp.), A Recount on the History of Oil, its Specifications, and its Journey to Current Guidelines.

Keynote Michael Dunne (CEO, Dunne Automotive Ltd., Hong Kong) spoke on topics such as China’s Strategic Policies for Auto-Tech Revolution (Made-in-China 2025); the Tech Revolution in China’s Automotive Industry 2015-2020, and China’s Roadmap to Electric, Autonomous and Ride-Sharing Leadership by 2030; Christopher Cloutier (President, Golden Rule Auto Care), spoke about Adding Technology to your Shop Operations; Alejandro Hernández Márquez (Sales Manager- México, Walker Products), spoke about Controlling Pollutant Emissions in Gasoline Vehicles; and Mark Phillips, (Editor & Video Host, of Aftermarket Intel), addressed A Video Is Worth A Million Words: Using Video To Educate Your Automotive Customers.

Facts about Panama

It’s HOT. Bring sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen if you intend to spend any time outside. In fact, exhibitors I talked to from Miami said the sun seems much more hot in Panama than they’re used to. I’m from Ohio, so I’m going to take their observations as law.


The currency of Panama is officially the Panamanian Balboa. In its paper form, the country uses American Dollars; the country mints its own coins, which you will receive as change from stores and shops when using dollars.

Tocumen International Airport

You will most likely enter Panama by flying into Tocumen International Airport, an efficient airport that handles around 9 million passengers annually. The airport currently is undergoing an extensive expansion. The airport is served by a number of airlines, including Delta, United, Spirit, American Airlines and Air France, among others.


Panama Immigration staffers are very polite and efficient. You’ll be required to offer your fingerprints on an electronic system and have your passport scanned, much like on arrival in any other country.

Getting to ATLAPA Convention Center (Centro de Convenciones de Atlapa) and downtown Panama City

I used Uber. It seemed easy and it was. When I exited customs and immigration and departed the airport, I walked straight out the door, across a street and into a parking lot. As of July 2018, the Uber app tells you the numbered row to meet your driver. I also used Uber on the way from my hotel to the airport upon departure. I paid a fare of about $27 and it took about 20 minutes.

ON DEPARTURE: Passengers leaving will go through two security checkpoints at Tocumen International Airport. You will go through an initial outbound immigration check, then a typical airport security checkpoint you’re probably used to. Then, at your gate, you will have another checkpoint.

There are many, many hotels in Panama City and first-time visitors will likely be struck by the sheer number of high-rise apartments and other buildings. It’s a very picturesque city. I stayed at Aloft, a very modern, sleek hotel that couldn’t be closer to the Atlapa Convention Center if it tried. It is literally one building over from the convention center.

Oh, and pack a small umbrella, because chances are, it’s going to rain — hard.

Visit soon for information on next year’s show, including booth reservations.

For the latest news and information on the global automotive aftermarket industry, visit


Join your colleagues in the global automotive aftermarket. Get the Aftermarket Intel Briefing, edited by Mark Phillips, AAP.

* indicates required