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Executive Interview

Executive Interview with Rich White, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, AAIA, and Executive Director of the Car Care Council

Rich White is vice president of marketing and communications for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). He oversees marketing, public relations, media relations, publications, Web sites and most recently, the Car Care Council and the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign. With National Car Care Month just around the corner, White provided aftermarketNews.com with an update on the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign and the Car Care Council’s plans for this year. He also shared how aftermarket companies can become more involved in the campaign.

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BETHESDA, MD —

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Every other week, aftermarketNews.com offers an interview with a high-profile individual in the automotive aftermarket. We give executives free rein to express their views on anything from the state of their corporations to recent legislative news to future trends in their niche markets. Here you see what matters to the newsmakers themselves.

Our latest edition of “Executive Interview” features Rich White, vice president of marketing and communications for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). He oversees marketing, public relations, media relations, publications, Web sites and most recently, the Car Care Council and the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign.

Before joining AAIA, White served as senior communications consultant at [email protected], a Washington, DC-based strategic public relations firm specializing in transportation and automotive issues. White spent 10 years heading the communications program at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Prior to that he was director of public affairs at the national headquarters of the American Automobile Association. Before entering the automotive association world, he was a reporter at newspapers in New York, New Mexico and Texas and lived and worked in West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer and trainer.

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With National Car Care Month just around the corner, White provided aftermarketNews.com with an update on the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign and the Car Care Council’s plans for this year. He also shared how aftermarket companies can become more involved in the campaign.

Q: April seems like a long way off, but it’s probably crunch time for National Car Care Month. What’s being planned for this year?

A: National Car Care Month is the rallying point for the aftermarket industry and a highly visible time for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign. The Car Care Council has been working for months to prepare, but there is still plenty of time for aftermarket companies and groups to get involved.

Central to the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign, National Car Care Month generates excitement and draws media attention to the economic, safety and environmental implications of unperformed vehicle maintenance. Consumers are hit with car care messages from every angle: newspapers, radio, television, signage in auto parts stores, service bays and special vehicle inspection events in parking lots.

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Q: For many years, National Car Care Month was held in October. Why was it switched to April?

A: Moving to April made more sense. We conducted consumer research and found that springtime resonated better with consumers. Warm weather and visions of road trip vacations are more positive mindsets for motorists and they are more eager to consider inspecting and servicing their vehicles. It appears that the industry is supportive of the April date too. We were pleased at the level of participation last April, which was the transitional year.

Every month is car care month as far as the aftermarket is concerned. But just as the firefighters have National Fire Safety Month in October and the International Dairy Farms Association has National Ice Cream Month in July, the automotive aftermarket hosts National Car Care Month in April.

Q: Speaking of industry participation, what can we expect to see the aftermarket doing to support and promote National Car Care Month?

A: What really makes not only National Car Care Month, but also the year-long campaign, is the combination of public relations and marketing outreach by the Car Care Council, reinforced by advertising and marketing support from individual companies and organizations. Exciting events, promotions and advertising by large and small industry companies and organizations during April will make this year’s National Car Care Month the most active and visible on record. Wal-Mart, AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts and Meineke are among top retailers who are participating this year. Program groups including the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance and Independent Auto Parts of America are on board. ACDelco, Customer Link, the Motorist Assurance Program, along with a number of states along with regional distributors and even the U.S. Navy are getting involved.

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Q: The “Be Car Care Aware” campaign was launched a little over a year ago. Is it beginning to pay off?

A: In its inaugural year, the campaign has been successful in reaching consumers hundreds of millions of times with messages about the benefits of regular vehicle care and maintenance. Created to capture a share of the estimated $62 billion in annual unperformed maintenance, the campaign has achieved unprecedented collaboration and support from aftermarket companies and organizations. The campaign has already demonstrated that, through strategic marketing and public relations consumer outreach, reinforced by industry advertising and marketing support, consumers can be motivated to change their attitudes and behaviors toward better vehicle care.

Q: Why is it important for aftermarket businesses, large and small, to participate in National Car Care Month?

A: Manufacturers, WDs, retailers, service providers and program groups all have a tremendous opportunity to tie-in with and capitalize on the intense marketing, PR and advertising being targeted to consumers during April. Consumers will be receiving a barrage of messages through television, radio, newspapers and in-store signage reminding them about the benefits of taking better care of their vehicle. Vehicle care will be on their mind, more than any other time of the year. By getting involved in the celebration, either by hosting a vehicle inspection event or joining in one, or sending out service reminders and putting up signs, businesses are likely to see an increase in sales and service.

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In fact, we have data showing that those businesses that participate in free vehicle inspections during National Car Care Month see an immediate increase in business, even though these events are free, educational and non-sales oriented. Businesses should consider partnering with a local radio station, classic car club, local MADD chapter, law enforcement and other groups and agencies to draw motorists to a location for car clinics, inspections, safety education and fun.

Q: How can aftermarket businesses get more information on participating in National Car Care Month?

A: It’s easy to get involved. Information and materials needed to plan and conduct National Car Care Month events as well as ready-made promotional items are available at: www.carcare.org.

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