AKRON, OH —
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 Scott Meyer, outgoing chairman of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). As he concludes his time as chairman of the association, he steps into a new role as interim president of MEMA, which is in the midst of celebrating its 100-year anniversary.
Since 1995, Meyer has served as president and COO of Akron, Ohio-based Ken-Tool, a leading manufacturer of tire and wheel service tools and equipment. Just this month, Meyer retired from the position after 35 years. Meyer will continue working with Ken-Tool as vice-chairman, moving away from the day-to-day operations of the business, focusing more on business growth and development including product and market development, business and marketing strategy and industry and customer relationship building. This change also allows him to devote more time to MEMA along with other industry and community activities.
Meyer began his career in 1969 with Ken-Tool, but then spent three years with the U.S. Army, stationed in Hanau, Germany. He returned to Ken-Tool in 1973 and held several positions of increasing responsibilities through 1982. During his tenure, he established a new information technology operation to provide MIS services to both Ken-Tool and to outside clients, including MRP systems and EDI services, led the company through the largest and most aggressive capital investment program in its history and implemented employee involvement programs.
Join us as Meyer shares his insights on the anniversary of MEMA’s centennial, and what lies ahead for both MEMA and the entire industry.
This year marks a major milestone for MEMA – its 100-year anniversary. How does it feel to be a part of such a venerated organization at this significant point in time?
It feels great to be part of an organization that has not only survived, but also has thrived over the past century. MEMA has been there for the good times and the bad, and this proven experience helps the association learn from the past and better anticipate the future.
Suppliers of motor vehicle products should be proud to have an association that has always been there to support their business objectives and help overcome the competitive obstacles that impact their bottom lines. MEMA has been the product manufacturers’ partner for the past century and the association looks forward to continuing that role.
One additional point. MEMA realizes it is only as strong as its members. Without our members’ support over the past century, MEMA would not have been as productive and valuable. With our members’ support, MEMA has turned into a member-driven association that is now the largest and oldest trade association representing North America motor vehicle product manufacturers.
The anniversary is really a testament to our members who have driven the advancement of the automotive and heavy-duty industries through superior innovation, technology, service and support.
How do you characterize the changes within the industry and within MEMA over the past 100 years? Where do you see the industry going in the future? What role do you envision that MEMA will play?
The industry, like North America, has certainly evolved. We have all seen the changes that have taken place over the past decade – imagine all the changes that have taken place over the past 100 years!
In terms of the future, consolidation and compression will continue to take place. The big will most likely get bigger. It will be important for companies to focus on their core competencies and maintain focus, while having a solid strategy to be a global, regional or local product manufacturer.
Collaboration is certainly a buzzword that has been used extensively in our industry during the past couple of years. MEMA can be of a major service to our members and to the industry to help spearhead collaboration among customers, legislators, regulators and even other suppliers and make sure that collaboration is more than just a buzzword.
We are in an industry that will always be around. People will always own cars, drive them and need repairs and maintenance. This is an industry where all players can be profitable while continuing to provide the high level of service that consumers have come to expect from the aftermarket.
It is also important to note that MEMA’s aftermarket segment, the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), will play a key role in helping aftermarket part manufacturers survive and thrive. As an industry association focused only on aftermarket suppliers, AASA will be instrumental in helping our members deal with the unique challenges they face today and in the future.
Are any special events planned to commemorate MEMA’s 100 years?
MEMA has been celebrating its anniversary in several ways over the past year. We have tried to spread out the celebration throughout the year to keep our members enthused about this very impressive milestone.
We began the year by producing the first MEMA Annual Report and followed that with a mailing of a special commemorative die-cast car with a special MEMA anniversary logo. Each month, members will also receive a special direct mail piece which looks back at a key MEMA milestone over the past century. Next month, we will also send members a special 100-year commemorative poster that members will be proud to place on their office walls. Members will also receive a special issue of our FOCUS magazine that is sure to be a keepsake.
We have also produced a special video that details the importance of the automotive supplier industry to the American economy and to the automotive industry in general. This video, which will be distributed to members, helps educate key audiences including those in Washington about the important role our industry plays. The video will be used by MEMA at key industry events, meetings on Capitol Hill and, of course, be sent to members so they can use at their discretion.
In terms of events, we began our celebration at last year’s AAPEX Show. We initiated a special member recognition program and honored Timken as one of our original charter members at the AASA/MEMA Executive Reception which drew more than 300 members and guests. I can guarantee you that our presence at AAPEX this year will focus heavily on our anniversary and members will be proud to be a part of it.
For the first time ever, we conducted a board meeting which brought together the board of directors of MEMA and its market segment associations – the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association and the Original Equipment Suppliers Association. The event, which also included AWDA’s Board of Directors, took place June 9-11 at MEMA headquarters.
Our celebration will end in mid-November at a special reception at the OESA Outlook Conference which brings together nearly 500 members from our original equipment market segment association.
MEMA is producing a special commemorative issue of its FOCUS magazine in honor of the 100th anniversary. What can you tell us about this?
Our quarterly magazine, FOCUS, has really come a long way over the past couple of years and remains the only magazine that is 100 percent focused on supplier issues. For our anniversary, we wanted to do something special. We wanted to create a special issue of the magazine that the industry will enjoy by looking back over the past 100 years. The special issue, which is being jointly produced by Babcox, not only looks back at the history of MEMA, but it also looks ahead to the future of our industry and honors many of our members’ significant accomplishments.
The magazine will be distributed to all MEMA members and will be mailed with the June issue of Counterman magazine. This will be an issue that most people will want to keep as an accurate and intriguing commemoration of the past 100 years of automotive product manufacturing.
What are the biggest industry issues MEMA and its members are facing right now?
Where do you begin? The first concern has to be the overall financial stability of our members. It used to be that all players in the industry – the customers and the manufacturers – found this a profitable industry to be in. However, the pendulum of power has shifted over time and while sales may be high, profit is way down. Without this profit, it’s difficult – perhaps impossible – for our members to grow and invest in their future, their people and to develop new technologies and advancements. This is an issue we must deal with before it gets any worse. Certainly there will be winners and losers, but our goal is to maximize the number of winners.
There are many issues affecting motor vehicle product manufacturers so I’ll focus on the aftermarket side. Counterfeiting and intellectual property rights are certainly major concerns and we are taking numerous steps to help our members with these challenges, including education on what can be done to protect their brands and working with Congressman Joe Knollenberg to craft legislation to strengthen penalties against counterfeiters. Other issues our Washington, D.C., office is working on include high steel costs, pension and health care and asbestos.
Taking costs out of the supply chain is also a major and complex issue. With margins low, it is important for suppliers to manage the costs that they have control of, including reducing excess inventory, less lax return policies, better pricing strategies, improved logistics and warehousing practices, and so on. I think you get the point that there is a myriad of challenges facing our members and threatening their survival.
We have our plate full of priorities that will help our members thrive for the next century. From government representation and industry image to networking and customer collaboration, we understand that the job of your trade association is to continually adjust to market dynamics and member needs – and we look forward to evolving with your business.
Chris Bates recently resigned as president and CEO of MEMA, and you recently stepped in as interim president. What are the steps being taken to find his permanent successor?
The executive committee of the MEMA Board of Directors has formed a search committee to identify and interview individuals who we believe can help take MEMA to the next level. This will be no easy task as we will be looking for a very special individual.
These are challenging times for product manufacturers in the original equipment, aftermarket and heavy duty marketplaces, and the role of the trade association has never been more important. The board wants to ensure that the future of MEMA is best positioned to serve the growing needs of its members. These changes will help MEMA become stronger and more effective. These are positive steps that will help foster growth of the association for its next 100 years.
Although Chris has left, we have made two very important additions to our senior management staff. First, we hired Ann Wilson as vice president of government affairs. Ann, who previously served the same role with the Rubber Manufacturers Association, will lead the government relations activities of MEMA’s Washington, D.C. office and will heighten the awareness of the supplier industry on Capitol Hill. This was a very important addition as the regulatory and legislative arenas continue to play a greater role in our industry.
We also solidified the future of our heavy duty market segment association – the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association – with the hiring of well-respected industry veteran Tim Kraus. Tim, who will serve as executive director of HDMA and a MEMA vice president, comes to us from Triseal Corp. where he served as director of sales and marketing.
To learn more about MEMA, visit: www.mema.org.
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