The Auto Care Association’s teleforum “Top Business Challenges of 2019 – Industry Experts Share Their Insights” took to Twitter on Feb 15, bringing together a highly experienced group of automotive aftermarket experts who shared their thoughts on the direction of the industry.
The association’s Manufacturers Reps. Council Member Paul Kokkinos, Managing Partner, Southwest, RPS Marketing, along with Curtis Draper, Managing Partner, Schwartz Advisors, as moderator, posed a series of questions to the panel.
The panelists were John Washbish, CEO, Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance; Mike Fiorito, vice president, KYB Americas Corp.; and Merle Bever, VP of Purchasing, Factory Motor Parts.
As the association points out, the aftermarket is expected to reach more than $421 billion by 2020.
Question: Clearly there have been some reverberations in the US with government shutdowns, tariff talk, wimpy weather – then Polar Vortex weather…from your perch in the auto care industry, how would you describe things?
Washbish: “Let’s not come up with more excuses not to sell parts. we can’t control outside influences, but we can capitalize and conduct business.”
Question: The tariff situation has been a source of uncertainty and concern for many businesses across many industries. How do you feel distributors and consumers are feeling about tariffs, and do you think businesses are taking action or adopting a wait and see approach?
Bever: “It has a profound effect on the country of origin like never before. Long-term, I have concerns what it’s going to do the middle class and lower middle class due to being the amount of costs that can be absorbed.”
Question: How can telematics benefit the aftermarket when consumers have the right to dictate where their vehicles data is being sent?
Fiorito: “I think telematics are great for the industry. It will be a battle to ensure we have access to the data, but I don’t think dealers can handle the load of all the telematics data that will come from the aftermarket.”
Question: Like many industries, consolidation appears to be on a steady and ongoing path. Do you agree that this trend will continue, and what impacts will this make on both the health of the industry, as well as how companies will change?
Washbish: “We think the consolidations will continue. There’s a lot of equity that people want to invest somewhere. It’s no surprise that investors look at the aftermarket as a growing industry when they look at the stock market.”
Question: E-tailing has driven significant changes across many industries. Much has been written predicting variety of impacts to the auto care space. How have you chosen to address e-tailing in your business?
Fiorito: “From our perspective, we don’t look at it as a different segment, but as all one market. We all know the internet is here to stay and when done right, it can be a huge benefit to what we do.”
Bever: “The world is always changing. E-Tailing has helped data evolve to where you can have the right inventory in the right place.”
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