MEMA's Brucato: 'Have a Vision for Mobility, Not Hard Parts'

MEMA’s Brucato: ‘Have a Vision for Mobility, Not Hard Parts’

MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers' Ben Brucato shares how the industry— through the Top Suppliers List— has evolved.

Each year, MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers (formerly AASA) publishes the MEMA Aftermarket Top Suppliers List in partnership with us at AftermarketNews. In fact, this month, the latest version of the list was published in our October issue and online. Be sure to check it out. With MEMA’s reorganization and consolidation over the years in the industry, we wondered: How has MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers seen the top suppliers in our industry change over the years? And how has the list changed this year?

Those are the questions we asked Ben Brucato, vice president of membership and engagement for MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers. Before joining MEMA in 2014, Brucato worked in sales for various aftermarket companies such as Merchant’s Tire & Auto, Airtex Products and UCI-FRAM. He started as director of membership for AASA and his role has evolved to oversee membership and engagement of members in the new MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers. In his years with the organization, Brucato has also worked on the Top Suppliers list, and as the industry has changed, the list has changed, too.

In this Executive Interview, Brucato shares his thoughts about how he has seen the industry— and the Top Suppliers List— evolve over the years and how he feels aftermarket parts suppliers need to think about their business to secure their spot in the aftermarket of the future.

AftermarketNews: MEMA underwent a reorganization early this year. Describe what changes have taken place for MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers. How has MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers’ membership changed this year?

Brucato: MEMA is celebrating its 119th anniversary this year. Like many of our members, our organization has navigated the winds of change and we are all looking to position our businesses for the future.

As you all know, with the support and guidance of the MEMA board, the organization took some bold steps to position MEMA for the future.

A very exciting change for 2023 has been the restructure of MEMA to better align with the changing industry landscape and position MEMA for the future, moving from four divisions to two groups: MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers and MEMA Original Equipment Suppliers. The new structure will provide a simpler way for members to unlock more value through expanded platforms and opportunities for access to industry dialogue, resources and programming.

An additional bold step was the creation of the Center for Sustainability. Our goal is to help suppliers no matter where they are in their sustainability journey, be it just beginning or well down the path. Sustainability is not just about the environment, but also about the sustainability of the business. The creation of the center will also focus on creating strategic advantage through sustainability initiatives.

Finally, achieving sustainability also includes leveraging the benefits of a diverse workforce, and creating an environment of belonging that will allow everyone to reach their full potential, thus moving the business forward.

MEMA has taken steps to do the same in two ways, first we have created a dedicated director of DEI, and have instituted as platform for safe and courageous conversations internally. Second, we have created a DEI Council where all MEMA members can learn and grow and advance no matter where they are on that journey.

AMN: As the aftermarket arm of MEMA enters into a new chapter, how do you see the group engaging most effectively with its membership?

Brucato: Aftermarket Suppliers will be able to engage its members in a much more effective and efficient way, ultimately providing more value and more resources for its members with less friction or roadblocks.

Now that MEMA aftermarket suppliers includes commercial vehicle and passenger vehicle suppliers, as well as remanufacturers, we have more resources under one umbrella which allows members to access those resources without having to join multiple groups.

As our supplier members continue to diversify, and as leaders have more responsibilities within different segments of the industry, it is a great benefit for them to be able to attend events or access research within the channel that they oversee.

As members’ time becomes more constrained, it is important that we provide more content and thought leadership at one time and in one place. In other words, members can come to our annual Vision Conference and attend council meetings, network and gain thought leadership on passenger vehicles, commercial vehicle, as well as remanufacturing. In the past, members had to attend multiple events to access all that content.

AMN: In your role, you spearhead the creation of the MEMA Aftermarket Top Suppliers list, done in partnership with us at AftermarketNews. How will this year’s list be different from last year’s?

Brucato: As suppliers evolve in our industry, we are seeing more cross-pollination of industry channels. Passenger vehicle parts suppliers are growing their commercial vehicle presence and remanufacturing capabilities. We have decided to make these designations in the Top Supplier list, which will also help distributors identify who is playing in what market. We have also seen the supplier base change after COVID, with new suppliers entering the market and some going away. Readers of the magazine will be surprised to see some new names on the list this year.

The MEMA Aftermarket Top Suppliers List (formerly AASA Top Suppliers List) was established in 2003. Since 2014 when you joined the organization, how have you seen the Top Suppliers list evolve with industry trends (consolidation, electric, etc.)?

Great question. It really has changed quite a bit. First of all, the increased influence of private equity has eliminated the visibility on sales volume for some of these companies, making it harder to know their aftermarket size. However, the largest change from private equity comes in the form of consolidation. Seeing the number of brands and even product categories listed under some of these suppliers is staggering. There are still a number of suppliers that have one product category focus, but so many are truly diversifying, which will be an important aspect as we enter a new age of EVs.

AMN: From your perspective, what are the top three issues in our industry aftermarket manufacturers and suppliers should be paying attention to?

Brucato: The number one focus for MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers, and we believe should be the primary focus for our members, is getting Right to Repair. Our entire industry hinges on this initiative, and without it, we all look very different in the future.

The second is not a new issue but one that every organization, especially manufacturers, have faced for many years. We have all heard of countless examples of companies that have gone out of business overnight because of a narrow vision. Companies like Kodak failing to adopt to the changing digital landscape blinded by their narrow vision of the film business. Suppliers in our industry need to have a vision for mobility and not hard parts. There are certainly many opinions around when EVs will dominate the market, but nevertheless, the market and technology is changing, and suppliers need to be ready to broaden their vision and capabilities.

And lastly, talent retention and acquisition. I think that if we get the last point right, and frame our industry as the mobility industry, we will have no problems bringing in the next generation of workers, whether that be on the technician side or on the manufacturing side.

AMN: What do you want MEMA members to know about MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers heading into 2023?

Brucato: The aftermarket is a fantastic industry and a great place to work and build a career. It is an industry built on integrity, hard work, family and a genuine passion for cars and people. MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers is dedicated to playing a role in continuing these pillars and bringing the industry together to be stronger and resilient no matter the challenges and opportunities ahead.

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