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Auto Care: Using Data Tools For Post-COVID Business Planning

Association execs talked about top data points to keep an eye on and what these data points might mean for the industry.

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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.

Yesterday, Auto Care Association held a webinar on “COVID-19: Industry Data Resources and Implications,” for its members, during which Michael Chung, Auto Care’s new director of market intelligence, and Scott Howat, business development executive, discussed the data resources Auto Care is making available to members during these uncertain times. In addition, Howat and Chung talked about top data points that Auto Care is keeping a close eye on at the moment and what these data points might mean for the industry.

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Howat, who prior to joining Auto Care has had an extensive aftermarket career with such companies as Gates Corp., Affinia and Echlin, talked about the value he found in using data for business planning in 2008-2009 following the economic downturn.

“I can tell you when the economy turned upside down in 2008, the first place I turned to was the Factbook,” said Howat. “The biggest problem I faced was the need for immediate data, right now. Our CEO, our board, wanted information and they wanted it now. Not only did I have to figure out where to get it, but also find the resources.”

In addition to the Auto Care Factbook, the association pushed forward the release of its new online industry research platform, TrendLens. TrendLens offers a data-based perspective into which market-influencing factors are affecting the industry, so users can make effective, well-informed decisions for their businesses when it counts.

Following the overview of the data tools that Auto Care has available and how to best use them for post-COVID planning and projections, the duo took questions from webinar attendees. Listeners asked questions about expectations for miles driven in the second half of 2020, given potential hesitation to return to flying right away.

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“I think miles driven is going to be directly impacted by how quickly we return to what we consider normal business life,” said Howat. “I think if you are intuitive by nature, I would believe that there will be a reduction in air travel and increase in long-range travel, but I think the big impact will be influenced by how quickly we get our workforce back and mobilized.”

Added Chung, “Also, to me, part of the question is, if people are driving long distance for out of town trips, will that outweigh the reduction in current commuting? I’ll be very interested to see how that plays out.”

When asked if the tools available could be updated with new indicators based on user feedback, the answer was yes. Howat noted, “We are in unprecedented times, as we start to recover, there is going to be new information available. Back in ’08, there was a direct relationship with fuel prices to miles driven and how quickly people were getting back. And we are at record lows – gas is $1.35 [a gallon] down here in Florida, and I haven’t filled up my tank in six weeks. There will be other factors made available.” 

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Chung stated that he welcomes user feedback and wants to ensure the association is sharing high-quality, reliable statistics and that being able to introduce new indicators into the platform is possible and will happen over time.

When asked if the recovery from this pandemic is at all comparable to the recovery post-recession, Howat had this to say: “I think there are different factors that will impact this. We are all feeling the affects of the immediate shock to the market and the need to react to the situation. I think the timing is going to be different. I don’t think there was an end in sight in 2008 when it started to go down. I think because of the fact that this is a pandemic and we are starting to get indications of a recovery, it is not going to be as long-lasting.

“Does this create what I would consider some long-lasting changes to the way that we do business? Does work from home stick? Does our commuting workforce change a little bit? Those are some dynamics, as we recover from this, that I think will be very important to look at. I think with the overall thirst for home delivery we will see growth in the medium-size delivery vehicles servicing the general public. Some very interesting things will come out of this. It will be different but I think it will be shorter.”

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