Ninth Annual GAAS Kicked Off in Chicago - aftermarketNews

Ninth Annual GAAS Kicked Off in Chicago

While the theme of this year's Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) -- Leaner, Faster, Better -- may connote the automated efficiency of a well-run machine, the true focus of the day's numerous presentations was on the talented pool of people who make up that machine and how to make better use of them. "The core of any great business is the people," said GAAS founder and chairman Mort Schwartz, who welcomed approximately 400 aftermarket executives to the event.

by Amy Antenora
Managing Editor, aftermarketnews.com

CHICAGO — While the theme of this year’s Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) — Leaner, Faster, Better — may connote the automated efficiency of a well-run machine, the true focus of the day’s numerous presentations was on the talented pool of people who make up that machine and how to make better use of them. “The core of any great business is the people,” said GAAS founder and chairman Mort Schwartz, who welcomed approximately 400 aftermarket executives to the event.

The ninth annual GAAS, which kicked off yesterday, May 18, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago, included a number of diverse presentations and panel discussions featuring global economists, industry veterans and consulting experts.

Economist Dr. Jeffrey Rosensweig, of Emory University, opened the day with a broad overview of the global economy in his presentation “Winning the Global Game.” From statistics on birth rates to trade deficits, Rosensweig, who specializes in macroeconomic forecasting, addressed the increasing role of China as a major player in the global economy and, more specifically, the automotive industry. “China is on everybody’s mind and should be,” said Rosensweig. While the U.S. continues to be the dominant country in terms of economic growth, Rosensweig said China, India, Mexico and Brazil will see major growth in the future. India alone, Rosensweig noted, adds 18 million new people every year, the equivalent of adding an entire Scandinavian country to its population.

From the broad perspective of Rosensweig’s presentation, the discussion of Asian Pacific aftermarket opportunities continued with presentations from Steve Ganster of Technomic Asia, a firm which helps Western companies become successful in the Asian market; and Frank Ordonez of Delphi. Delphi has been involved in the Asian aftermarket for 11 years and currently employs 7,000 people in the region. Ordonez reaffirmed Rosensweig’s prediction about the continuing growth of China. “China is now the fourth largest trader in the world and will be the leader in the future,” Ordonez noted. He predicts that the next new major vehicle — comparable to a Toyota or Hyundai — will come from China.

The day also included a candid discussion with executives of manufacturers that sell to both the OE market and the aftermarket about what they predict for under-the-hood car trends for future. The panel, which featured Ben Bendixen of Robert Bosch Corp., Greg Gyllstrom of Visteon Corp., Peter Klotz of DENSO and Tom Synder from Delco Remy, included an interesting debate about whether hybrid or diesel cars would prosper in the future. While not all on the panel agreed, Bendixen made a strong case for diesel. Seeing that diesel cars make up 46 percent of new car purchases in Europe currently, he predicts that this trend will follow in the U.S. in the next 10 to 15 years. The panelists also discussed the increasing complexity of vehicle systems, why OE suppliers are becoming more active in the aftermarket and warranties.

Dana Automotive Aftermarket Group’s John Washbish reprised his popular and entertaining look at adopting new technological applications in his presentation of the “John R. Washbish 12-Step Program for Technophobes.”

GAAS attendees had the chance to hear NASCAR driver Bill Lester speak during a lunchtime session. Lester, an accomplished electrical engineer, left a successful job with Hewlett Packard to pursue his dream of driving race cars full time. Persistent in pursuing his dream, Lester sat out of racing for seven years due to lack of corporate sponsorship. An advocate of networking and creating relationships, Lester went on to become the first African-American driver to race in the NASCAR Busch series. He is currently working with NASCAR on its NASCAR Diversity program, designed to bring more African-Americans to the sport.

On more than one occasion, politics and the upcoming U.S. presidential election entered the conversation. “Jobs are the issue of this election,” said Rosensweig. The topic came up again in a charming and down-to-earth presentation from SEMA Chairman Corky Coker, president of Coker Tire, who is deeply involved in politics in his home state of Tennessee. Coker urged GAAS attendees to take an active role in politics, referring to current major legislative issues for the aftermarket, such as the Right to Repair Act and vehicle scrappage legislation. “The ability for independent service dealers to repair cars — I think that’s a freedom issue,” he said.

Jeff Stankard, a publisher with Babcox Publications, led service dealer panelists through a thought-provoking discussion of service dealer operations. The diverse mix, which included John Francis of Francis Automotive Service, Eric Griffith of Bridgestone/Firestone Retail & Consumer Operations, Mac McGovern of Lee Auto Parts, and Doug Moody of Canada’s Active Green & Ross, discussed training, vehicle complexity and strategies to keep smaller service shops successful. One striking statistic from the panel was the increasing rate at which service dealers are going online for their parts ordering needs. Three of the four panelists each said they order 60 to 80 percent of their parts online, giving reasons such as accuracy, ease of use, having an audit trail of an order and having the ability to provide more accurate estimates.

Sponsored by R. L. Polk & Co., the first day of GAAS 2004 also featured a multi-media presentation on inventory management from Polk’s Mike Gingell and Mike Swearengin from O’Reilly Auto Parts, which worked with Polk to improve its inventory management processes. The day of presentations closed with an enlightening talk with Tiffany Vasilchick, a consultant with Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve, about advertising and targeting the female consumer.

Stay tuned, tomorrow, aftermarketNews.com will continue its live coverage of GAAS 2004 with news from the second and final day of the event.

_______________________________________

Click here to view the rest of today’s headlines.

You May Also Like

Maryland Teamsters Call for Passage of HB 1447

The legislation would protect middle-class jobs and motorist safety, according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Maryland Teamsters Call for Passage of HB 1447

Members of Teamsters Locals 570, 639, and 922 testified before the Maryland House of Delegates to call for the passage of House Bill 1447 (HB 1447), legislation that would require a human operator in large commercial vehicles. Similar legislation has been introduced in California, Iowa, Indiana, and New York this year.

Beyond the safety aspect, the legislation would protect middle-class jobs, according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

$78B Pro-Business Tax Bill Passes House, Awaits Senate

The bill aims to reinstate tax incentives for R&D and small business investments, along with other measures.

MANN+HUMMEL NA Aftermarket Shows Right to Repair Support

Representatives from MANN+HUMMEL’s North American aftermarket brands recently visited Capitol Hill to express their support for H.R. 906.

MEMA Issues Statement on Tax Relief for Working Families Act

This measure contains the restoration of one year deductibility of research and development expenses, a key legislative priority for the association.

SEMA Urges Members to Support Tax Relief Bill

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 benefits specialty automotive aftermarket businesses, according to SEMA.

SEMA Action Network

Other Posts

ASA Endorses Bipartisan Tax Framework

The Automotive Service Association says the legislation is beneficial for independent automotive repair businesses.

Industry Partners Urge Congress to Pass R&D Deductibility Fix

“Congress must restore this tax provision to enhance U.S. competitiveness, job creation and innovation as soon as possible,” said Ann Wilson, MEMA’s executive vice president of government affairs.

Legislators Challenge Vehicle Data Access ‘Double Standard’

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez joined other legislators in sending a letter to NHTSA about proposed guidance for implementing the Massachusetts Right to Repair law.

House Passes Bill to Stop EPA Emissions Mandate

The U.S. House passed the “Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act” (H.R. 4468) with bipartisan support.

Opposition Grows for California’s Mandate Banning New Gas-Powered Vehicle Sales