From AAPEX Today
LAS VEGAS — In response to appeals from its members calling for a national platform to represent the exclusive interests of independent vehicle service and repair businesses, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) has created the new Independent Service Providers segment to operate within the association.
The announcement was made by Dave Caracci, AAIA chair, at the conclusion of last week’s Town Hall in Las Vegas. “The entire aftermarket depends on the folks in the trenches who sell and install parts and service and repair the 232 million motor vehicles in this country. These professionals are feeling increased pressures to not just remain competitive and profitable, but to stay in business.”
“Today no organization fully represents the interests of the 167,000-plus independent service and repair businesses that are not affiliated with new car dealerships. So I am extremely pleased and excited to announce a new home and a national platform, to serve and protect the interests of the independents. I present the new Independent Service Providers Segment of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association,” Caracci said.
The announcement has generated considerable interest and questions. While in Las Vegas, AAPEX Today spoke with Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA president and CEO concerning the new segment for independents:
AAPEX Today: Representing independent repair shops at a national level is an ambitious undertaking. Explain why is AAIA doing this?
Schmatz: The short answer is because it’s in the best interests of our members and the aftermarket industry as a whole. The longer answer is that AAIA is the only trade association that vertically integrates the entire distribution channel from manufacturers, to distributors, reps, program groups and retailers. The ISP segment now completes the circle; the pipeline is in place. The aftermarket industry has long needed a forum for more direct communication between independent service providers and the rest of the supply chain. For example, there is a feeling of remoteness among independents and their professional technicians who are unable to offer their input from hands-on experience on the design and application of aftermarket parts and service techniques. Dealer technicians on the other hand are consulted regularly by their OE franchisors on matters relating to parts design, ease of use, repairability and other issues.
AAPEX Today: What’s in it for AAIA?
Schmatz: It’s really about what’s in it for our member companies and the industry at large. Such a forum would establish more direct access to independent service providers for AAIA and its member companies in the execution of critical grass roots legislative efforts, the adoption of technology standards and participation in the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign. AAIA currently represents indirectly thousands of repair shops and service professionals by virtue of its members who are program groups, franchises and state and regional aftermarket associations. The new ISP will streamline AAIA’s grass roots advocacy response capabilities and empower local shop owners to get more involved in business-building initiatives directed by the association.
AAPEX Today: Does this new segment compete with the state and regional wholesaler and service provider associations and program groups that are already AAIA members?
Schmatz: We want to be absolutely clear that the new segment is non-competitive and non-threatening to current AAIA member program groups, franchises and state and regional associations. In fact, the ISP segment will actually reinforce and complement our existing small business affiliate program and reinforce the value of AAIA membership to all group members. We are also sensitive to the fiercely individualistic nature of shop owners who are wary of revenue-generating schemes masquerading as initiatives to help their cause. I assure you that ISP is not one.
AAPEX Today: Dave Caracci, in his speech, pointed to pressures on independents. Can you be more specific?
Schmatz:The pressure points are technological, demographic, legislative, regulatory and managerial with increased competition from new car dealers seeking to capture a greater share of service and repair business. Specific examples include OE attempts to limit aftermarket access to service information, extensive promotion of supposed advantages of purchasing dealer-supplied parts and service; improved dealer customer service; and extended dealer warranties. Most independent service providers are unable to match their dealer competitors in areas where economies of scale play a role. For example, inventory control and ordering, parts cataloging and electronic communications are standardized to a high degree among franchised dealers. Direct access to affordable and efficient industry standards and solutions through AAIA would help tip the scales.
AAPEX Today: How will the new segment be structured to provide adequate and fair representation and governance for independents under the AAIA umbrella? What happens next?
Schmatz:The Independent Service Providers segment will be governed by volunteer leaders with experience, knowledge and a track record of activism in this arena. We have responded to our members who identified a need. We conducted viability research and created a concept with structure and purpose. Now, as in the past, we will engage a cross-section of this industry segment to build a legitimate and responsive national community that will serve and protect the interests of independent service providers that we all depend on for our livelihood. Think globally, act locally.