For the ACA, it will be hard to top 2014.
That was, according to Kathleen Schmatz, ACA president and CEO, arguably the association's very best year in its history, though don't think for a second the ACA is content to rest on its laurels.
“Business is pretty darn good for most of our members,” Ms. Schmatz told Tire Business. With new expertise within the staff and plans for a brand new event for ACA members and the aftermarket, the outlook continues to be bright for the association in 2015, she said.
2014 was the year in which the ACA rebranded itself, changing its name April 1 from the previous Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association.
“The purpose of the rebranding was twofold,” Ms. Schmatz said. “First, to rename and rebrand the industry from the automotive aftermarket industry to the auto care industry, and, second, to rename and rebrand our association to the Auto Care Association to reflect the industry we represent.”
The ACA is both pleased and surprised how quickly the rebranding has been accepted, according to Ms. Schmatz.
“Before rebranding, our staff would waste valuable time in meetings with policymakers just explaining our industry before getting down to business,” she said. “Rebranding has been effective in addressing that challenge.
“We are also seeing widespread use of the term ‘auto care industry' among member companies and the trade media. We are delighted and encouraged to see that people get it.”
Rebranding wasn't the only ACA action that was well-received both within and outside the industry, she added.
“We had record participation on inspection lands and events for National Car Care months in April and October,” she said. “We just concluded the most successful AAPEX (Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo) Show ever. We gained some international expertise traveling to many trade shows and events, and co-sponsored a first Latin Auto Parts Expo. We co-hosted an international summit in Frankfurt on telematics.”
Ms. Schmatz hinted that there will be a new event in 2015—to be announced probably at the close of the first quarter—that should help to make 2015 as successful as 2014.
The ACA also will participate actively in 2015 in appropriate international events, she said, but the crux of its trade show efforts will always be AAPEX. “You can count on AAPEX to continue to grow in terms of celebrating the industry and linking buyers and sellers,” she said.
One of the ACA's biggest successes in 2014 came early in the year, when passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act by Massachusetts voters led to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between auto makers and the aftermarket. In the MOU, the auto makers pledged to provide independent auto repairers and do-it-yourselfers, accessibly and at a reasonable price, with the same repair and diagnostic information and tools they give their franchised dealers.
The Massachusetts law and MOU appear to be working, Ms. Schmatz said. But the ACA is still concerned that the auto makers' service information websites are difficult to navigate.
“The Auto Care Association would like to see the manufacturers work on their sites to make them more intuitive,” she said. The ACA would like to see auto makers work on their sites to make them simpler, and it looks forward to the model year 2018 requirement that auto makers make their diagnostic information available via generic personal computers, she said.
In 2015, the ACA will continue what Ms. Schmatz called “a steady rebranding drumbeat” on behalf of its members, as well as improving association benefits and services. Among the 2015 programs she mentioned were:
- Expanding the ACA's visibility and influence on the federal and state government levels;
- Implementing a strong international trade promotion program for ACA members;
- Introducing a website that will establish the ACA as the source of information on auto care jobs and careers for young people;
- Advancing the Car Care Aware consumer information campaign to make motorists aware of the benefits of regular vehicle maintenance and repair; and
- Continuing work on the telematics issue in an effort to create open technology standards to ensure that consumers have the right and ability to decide where their vehicle data are sent.
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