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AAIA rebranding, eyes a solid 2014 for aftermarket

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Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association photo Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, outlined the group's plans for a name change during the recent Automotive Aftermarket Parts Exposition in Las Vegas.

BETHESDA, Md. (Jan. 7, 2014) — The change to a new calendar means the upcoming switch of a moniker — and outlook — for at least one trade group.

2013 was the last full year that the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association's (AAIA) will operate under that name, according to President and CEO Kathleen Schmatz.

On or about April 1, the association will change its name to the Auto Care Association, Ms. Schmatz told Tire Business, emphasizing that the group is, as she put it, "really jazzed about rebranding the association."

The change signifies the association's stronger emphasis on education — both of consumers and of industry professionals — and technical training, according to Ms. Schmatz.

"While every industry has an aftermarket, the term is most often associated with the auto industry," she said. "Yet 'aftermarket' is difficult to understand and has a downright negative connotation to some consumers. We are urging those in our industry to define themselves as the auto care industry." The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association has trademarked this logo ahead of its changing its name AutoCare Association.

In any case, the Bethesda-based association is looking forward to a solid 2014 for the auto aftermarket, after a 2013 that actually turned out to be better than expected, Ms. Schmatz said.

At year-end 2012, Ms. Schmatz projected growth for 2013 of between 2 and 3 percent.

"From our vantage point, we had a tight first and second quarter, but things looked up afterward," she said.

"Business is pretty good now — up 3.5 percent in the second half."

A drop in fuel prices was helpful in 2013, and Ms. Schmatz said she expects lower prices to continue into 2014. Pure retailers within the aftermarket are doing especially well, she said, as are those marketing groups that stress customer satisfaction.

While the AAIA doesn't expect much on the legislative side in 2014, Ms. Schmatz said the association is encouraged by passage in Massachusetts of the bill reconciling the state's two versions of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act.

"I think the industry should have paused a moment to celebrate passage of the reconciliation bill," she said. "That effort took a year — and a lot of work."

The momentum from the Massachusetts victory is adding energy and enthusiasm to the effort to obtain a national Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with auto makers to apply the provisions of Right to Repair to all 50 states, she said.

Ms. Schmatz said she hoped for the signing of an MOU as early as January. If the car companies drag their feet, she said, the aftermarket is poised to act on Right to Repair in various states, starting with New Jersey, where the current version of Right to Repair has advanced in the legislature.

"But we don't want to go state-by-state," she said. "If we could get a 50-state MOU, that would be a big victory."

2014 will also be a year in which the association builds on its ongoing education and training programs, according to Ms. Schmatz. The AAIA appointed a blue-ribbon panel — consisting of experts representing all aspects of the industry — which has worked very hard to identify the aftermarket's most important educational requirements, she said.

Just as important is recruiting qualified people to work in the aftermarket, according to Ms. Schmatz.

"We've focused our efforts on returning veterans, working through veterans' organizations. It makes sense to focus on those folks who got experience during their service to their country."

Ms. Schmatz also noted that "at any given moment, the aftermarket has 300,000 jobs available. We need qualified, energetic folks to fill those jobs."

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