by Michael Freeze
Managing Editor Counterman Magazine
Rep. Knollenberg addresses aftermarket executives at the AAIA Legislative Summit this week.
WASHINGTON — With record numbers and spirited optimism, representatives from the aftermarket industry assembled in Washington, D.C., for the Aftermarket Legislative Summit this past Tuesday and Wednesday. More than 250 attendees representing 37 states made the journey to the lobbying rally to discuss with members of Congress the issues that affect the aftermarket.
The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), along with other industry associations such as the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality, the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association, the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers and the Tire Industry Association, sponsored the event. Tuesday evening, a reception was held that featured special guest Ray Evernham, NASCAR team owner and president and CEO of Evernham Motorsports.
On Wednesday, AAIA President and CEO Kathleen Schmatz spoke encouraging words to attendees before their congressional appointments later that day.
“I sincerely believe that today could be the tipping point for the automotive aftermarket,” said Schmatz. “All of us have caught the ‘bug’ to fight for our industry. Today, about 250 compassionate, dedicated, committed individuals who represent our industry are going to have a big affect on the aftermarket’s future.”
The main focus during the summit was The Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act, which legally prevents vehicle manufacturers from restricting access to the information, parts and tools necessary to accurately diagnose, repair, re-program or install automotive replacement parts.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) who also spoke during the summit, appeared confident about the passage of legislation that he will re-introduce to the 109th Congress.
“We will pass this bill this year,” said Rep. Barton, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “This bill is in my committee’s jurisdiction; if I can’t move a bill out of my own committee, I’m not much of a chairman.”
The Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act will be covered in greater detail in the May issue of Counterman magazine.
Another issue discussed during the summit was proposed anti-counterfeiting legislation. Counterfeiting, in general, costs businesses in the U.S. $200 billion per year, as estimated by the U.S. Customs Service and Border Protection. It has especially damaged the sales and brands of many aftermarket suppliers. The 1984 Trademark Counterfeiting Act was established to prosecute those who dealt in counterfeiting. Through that act, knock-off goods were destroyed, but the equipment and materials used to make them were not required by law to be destroyed.
The proposed Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act of 2005 (H.R. 32) would tighten existing criminal sanctions against counterfeiters by mandating the destruction of equipment and materials used for making and packaging counterfeit goods.
Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), a sponsor of the bill, was on hand to explain the importance of the issue.
“Counterfeit automobile parts cost the [global] supplier industry over $12 billion annually,” said Rep. Knollenberg, whose congressional district, on the outskirts of Detroit, is home to various auto suppliers within the industry. “This will not just have an impact on the suppliers, but the whole aftermarket. You don’t want fakes on your shelves or in your shops. You want real product to build trust in your customers and that is the really what this is about.”
Another topic during the Legislative Summit was association health plan legislation, written under the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005. This act, if passed, will allow small companies via trade and professional associations to obtain health benefits through small business health plans known as Association Health Plans.
Also on the summit agenda was asbestos litigation reform, which has placed an extreme burden on the aftermarket companies that manufactured products that contained asbestos. Companies throughout the industry have been battling lawsuits from those who worked in manufacturing facilities that made auto products containing asbestos or technicians who installed products that contained asbestos.
Detailed coverage of the Aftermarket Legislative Summit will be featured in the April issue of Counterman.
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