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R. L. Polk & Co’s Ask the Industry: Industry Execs Comment on the Top Ten Issues of Year

Today, aftermarketNews kicks off its second annual “Top Ten” series, produced in collaboration with our sister publication, Counterman magazine. For our first installation in a weeklong series, we recap the top ten issues addressed this year by executives in our bi-weekly feature “Ask the Industry.” Below are ten of the most intriguing insights that leading aftermarket executives shared with us this year.

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Today, aftermarketNews kicks off its second annual “Top Ten” series, produced in collaboration with our sister publication, Counterman magazine. For our first installation in a weeklong series, we recap the top ten issues addressed this year by executives in our bi-weekly feature “Ask the Industry.” Below are ten of the most intriguing insights that leading aftermarket executives shared with us this year.

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Stay tuned for other “Top Ten” features this week, including the “Top Ten News Stories of 2005,” the “Top Ten Distribution Influences” and the “Top Ten Newsmakers of the Year.”

On Raw Materials

“Everybody expected that the raw materials market would settle down and that some of the price increases we saw in 2002 and 2003 would come down to more historical levels. Well, the exact opposite happened. In early 2004, almost across the board, all of the steel manufacturer’s prices began to rise very quickly and in some cases, retroactively. That’s a very difficult thing for manufacturers to manage.”

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Dan Daniel, president of ArvinMeritor’s Light Vehicle Aftermarket

On Collaboration

“Collaboration across the industry is absolutely essential and there is no better example than in the area of information technology. Over the past 25 years, we have seen the kind of industry that evolves when business technology is developed in a vacuum without regard to how it will “play” with business partners. Proprietary data formats and private methods of communications were favored because they required less time and effort to develop than building industry standards. But long cycle times for data distribution and high costs of communication were the result.”

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Scott Luckett, vice president – technology standards and solutions, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association

On Nurturing the Next Generation

“There is a false perception when it comes to the automotive aftermarket, that you have to wake up with grease under your nails to be a success. We have a responsibility to get the word out that our industry has a bright future for young people today, no matter what field of study they’re interested in.”

Vonda Lee, director of product management, Beck/Arnley

On the Future of U.S. Manufacturing

“The importance of “Made in the USA” is far less influential than it was five years ago. There are customers, right or wrong, who still do take a position on that, but it’s not influencing decisions about products to be stocked. The fundamental driver is the customer and his or her satisfaction with the quality.”

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Gary Kremer, senior vice president, Uni-Select USA

On Lifetime Warranties

“The auto industry and the auto mechanics get a bad rap because of the lifetime warranty and it’s the manufacturers that do this. I go to these manufacturer meetings and all I want is the best price for their product so I can compete with the Midas and Speedy Muffler shops. The reason I joined these clubs is to get a better price.”

Bob Smith, owner, RTS Service Center

On Rising Gas Prices

“While we are seeing fuel cost surcharges and price increases from our suppliers, we don’t believe that our customers are yet willing to accept the same from us. At this point, our delivery is still “free” and our philosophy is to build the cost into our pricing structure. Due to competitive market conditions however, we have not found it easy to pass this expense along in the form of higher prices, but rather have had to absorb the additional expense. Should higher fuel prices be here to stay for the long term, we will likely have to address this issue with a more permanent solution.”

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Dick Beirne, president, United Auto Supply

On Employee Benefits

“With rising health care costs, Beck/Arnley looked for a health care solution that would be beneficial to both employees and to the company. By using a higher deductible plan, the monthly premium was actually reduced for both employees and the company, while providing the same health care benefits and providers as in the past. … Our new program gives employees lower premiums, as well as more flexibility and responsibility in managing their health care options.”

Gail Holt, vice president of administration, Beck/Arnley

On the Future of Program Groups

“It’s kind of ironic to look back to see who is still around from 10 years ago and who has been bought up. It just seems like the big groups keep getting bigger, which means the number of players in the aftermarket continues to shrink, at least the independents. … I can’t help but think that even some of the program groups out there now will have a tough time making it without merging with some of the larger groups out there. The writing has been on the wall for too many years not to think that it’s true.”

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Mark Morse, Co-Owner, Medina Auto Parts

On Professional Development

“You can learn a ton at events like AAPEX and GAAS, but it’s also important to find those outside ideas that haven’t been done. It’s even more important to take time away from your daily responsibilities to think about other things. For example, GAAS is a day and a half where you are not writing emails and returning phone calls, which gives you a chance to think about other things. People have so little time to do that today. To me, that’s really the value of executive education — trying to learn new ideas and use these types of events as an environment to strategize.”

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Steve Boguski, president, Newbury Partners

On What Consumers Look for in Car Repairs

“I’d say about 70 percent are willing to pay for quality. You get a few that are concerned about price, but most of them just want their cars fixed.”

Ralph Mosser, Owner, Ralph’s Auto Care

To read any about of these topics in their entirety, click here.

Read more AMN Top Ten features:

Top 10 Distribution Influences

Top Ten News Stories

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

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