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Executive Interview

AMN Executive Interview With Heather Waszczenko, National Brand Manager For ACDelco

Heather Waszczenko serves as the national brand manager for ACDelco. In today’s interview, Waszczenko talks about telematics, notable milestones from the company’s first 100 years, new marketing initiatives and more.

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Amy Antenora has served as editor of aftermarketNews since 2002 and has worked in the field of journalism for two decades. A graduate of Kent State University, Amy also earned her AAP designation from Northwood University's University of the Aftermarket in 2009.

ACDelcoHeatherWaszczenko.jpgHeather Waszczenko serves as the national brand manager for ACDelco. Prior to joining ACDelco, Waszczenko served in senior marketing leadership roles for other General Motors (GM) brands including Buick, Chevrolet and OnStar. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Central Michigan University and later completed her master’s degree in marketing at Wayne State University. Waszczenko also is an active member of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA).

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In today’s interview, Waszczenko talks about telematics, notable milestones from the company’s first 100 years, new marketing initiatives and more.

This has been a big year for ACDelco, first and foremost, as the company celebrated its centennial in May. Please tell our readers about some of the very special initiatives ACDelco launched in conjunction with the celebration.

It definitely has been a special year for us. GM facilities from Detroit to Dubai and beyond joined the celebration, and this was truly a reflection of the progress we’ve made growing from a small business in Flint, Michigan, to a global company.

Our partners, distributors and Professional Service Centers, or PSC, program participants played a big role in ACDelco realizing this moment. So we honored our top PSC program shops, awarded 100 scholarships to future technicians attending GM Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP) college programs and helped families in need during Day of Service events throughout the country.

The Top Shops contest judges narrowed down nominations from our more than 5,000 PSC program shops across the U.S. to 15 finalists and then selected five grand-prize winners who will join us at AAPEX. The competition was fierce, and exceptional shops like these are instrumental to our future success.

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In fact, several of our PSC program shop owners displayed their true colors again during our Day of Service celebrations in May as they partnered with local charities to help families in 17 U.S. cities get their vehicles back on the road. The impact was more powerful than anyone expected, and we look forward to more of this kind of community involvement going forward.

Also since May, we’ve been announcing our “100 Years, 100 Futures” scholarship recipients. Between our Top Shops winners and Day of Service participants, I think these young technicians have some great mentors within the ACDelco family as we work together to write the first chapter of our next 100 years.

What have been some of the most notable milestones that occurred as the company evolved over the past 100 years?

This is a tough question since our brand was involved in so many key moments in U.S. history, including the first trans-Atlantic airplane flights and the Allied effort during World War II.

However, when NASA asked our AC Spark Plug and Delco Electronics teams to help design and manufacture the inertial guidance systems for the Apollo moon missions in the 1960s, I imagine that was a pretty amazing project that would be hard to top.

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The creation of our industry-leading technician training and the introduction of our PSC program also were major milestones that helped elevate the independent aftermarket shops that use our parts. Because our industry today is much more global and changing so rapidly, I think our connection to GM will help us continue to make history with our products and services.

This year, ACDelco was honored for exceptional catalog data best practices by Epicor Software Corp. and the Automotive Content Professionals Network (ACPN), winning the President’s Award for electronic data excellence. How does ACDelco excel in such a critical, and sometimes overwhelming, facet of the business?

This is a tough area in which to excel, given that we offer more than 90,000 parts across 37 categories, so the award is truly a credit to the entire ACDelco global e-commerce team. A quality, customer-friendly catalog makes it easier for our customers and drives sales, so it’s important that we get it right the first time.

In this case, two main elements drove our winning this award: quality data and adherence to industry standards, PIES and ACES. That combination and a culture that values collaboration, continuous improvement and listening to your partners and customers made all the difference. Working with strong partners like Epicor and learning best practices through groups like ACPN are also a big part of staying ahead of the curve

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What will be the main focus of your presence at AAPEX, and what are your goals for this year’s show?

We’ll be in booth No. 4609 on the upper level of the Sands Expo Center. AAPEX is always a very special opportunity for us to engage with our current and prospective customers, and this year is no exception.

And this year, attendees can experience the depth and breadth of our 37 product lines and 90,000-plus parts in an entirely new way.

I won’t spoil the surprise now, but I can share that it will involve 3-D printing and an interactive virtual reality experience. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so we hope you and your readers stop by and see us during the show.

It seems nearly every day we hear about new developments in the world of the connected car and vehicle telematics. How will ACDelco play a role in this significant part of the aftermarket’s future?

Our CEO Mary Barra has said that the automotive industry will change more in the next five years then it has in the past 50, and these advances in technology are a tremendous opportunity for customers. I think ACDelco will play a significant role in this growing segment of the aftermarket.

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For example, GM’s exclusive OnStar system provides real-time data that helps us better understand the changing driving habits and service needs of our customers around the world.

ACDelco is also unique because we have the infrastructure to deliver these solutions in both the independent aftermarket and dealer service channels.

Which product categories do you feel present the most opportunities for ACDelco in the next several years? Conversely, which categories will pose the most challenges and why?

In the coming years, we see some great growth opportunities in collision parts, replacement sensors, batteries and remanufacturing.

However, those of us who are experienced in the aftermarket know this is always a difficult question. You can do your best to predict this based on years of data, and then something like the unusually cold winters we’ve had in recent years can dramatically change sales in many of your key product categories.

Although it’s difficult to predict the future in our rapidly changing industry, we do see opportunities given ACDelco’s brand recognition in the aftermarket. According to the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, $69 billion of maintenance in 33 product categories is underperformed each year in the U.S. aftermarket. At the same time, the average age of the vehicle parc continues to rise, so we think there are growth opportunities for our broad portfolio in the coming years.

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