Of all the locations in this country that are built for celebrations, reunions and general excitement, Las Vegas is probably “Place Number 1.” Coincidentally, of all the industries deserving of all those things, the automotive aftermarket is at the top of any list.
It’s no coincidence, of course, that Las Vegas and the aftermarket met at AAPEX 2021, but it sure felt like a long overdue reception. After two years, our industry finally had its homecoming.
The Sands Expo Center hosted the industry’s annual networking and business gathering, allowing visitors to touch, try and buy the latest product innovations from leading manufacturers. Training from top industry professionals was readily available and Joe’s Garage lived up to its billing, offering attendees – many of whom were shop owners attending for the first time – the chance to see shop equipment, diagnostic tools and front office resources in use in a real shop environment.
Of course, there were differences from shows of the past. Things looked different. Things felt different. Things WERE different.
This year’s AAPEX was unique for attendees and exhibitors – and that’s not a bad thing.
There was a celebratory feeling that, as an industry, we have been through chaos over the past year and a half. From being declared an essential business to dealing with unprecedented customer turnout to implementing significant changes to the business model to working through supply chain challenges, America’s service and repair industry kept rolling.
From my perspective, this year’s AAPEX felt like the most “businessy” trade show in years. People were there to learn, to connect, to do business.
“In addition to the quality of buyer, there were a lot of people who had never been to AAPEX before,” Vic Tarasik told me. Vic was one of the architects of Joe’s Garage and said he spoke with an number of shop owners who decided that this was the year they were actually going to get hands-on information about new technology to move their shop forward in the future.
“One shop owner told me that he had read a lot of articles in magazines and watched a lot of videos online about ADAS, but he hadn’t actually seen calibration equipment in action. We all did a great job learning virtually over the past year – but there’s something special about getting close to the vehicle and seeing the work being done,” says Vic.
Others felt the same way. To an exhibitor, every one I spoke with during the show said that while overall foot traffic was down, quality of conversation was way, way up.
“There was a recognition of a mutual understanding that we need each other,” agrees Vic. “The buyer wants to see the products in action and the exhibitor wants to engage in a real way. There was some concern over the past year that in-person events might be unnecessary – this AAPEX, I think, answered it. There’s no substitute.”
If you weren’t able to attend this year’s AAPEX Show, you can learn more about what you missed by visiting AAPEXShow.com for photos, videos and testimonials from attendees, exhibitors and show officials.