BETHESDA, Md. — 2017 was a big year for the Auto Care Association (ACA), and 2018 promises to be at least as big, according to President and CEO Bill Hanvey.
"2017 was a year of growth for the ACA," Mr. Hanvey said. "The major news is that we hired 18 new staff members, so that we have a team around our strategic pillars. It's a very dynamic group of industry experts, outside data experts and technical experts.
"We are now very well situated to advance on some of the additional pillars of our strategy," he said.
The main pillar of the ACA's strategy, according to Mr. Hanvey, is emerging automotive technologies. In 2017 the association formed an Emerging Technologies Committee consisting of eight technical industry leaders who are also on the ACA board of directors, he said.
"The committee has subcommittees and work groups to address specific emerging technology goals," he said.
Specifically in the field of telematics, the ACA is introducing a technical solution allowing its members to access data at the vehicle itself, rather than relying on the original equipment manufacturer to provide it, according to Mr. Hanvey.
The ACA introduced this secure vehicle interface at the 2017 Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) in Las Vegas and now is working to gain approval by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the International Society for Standardization (ISO), he said.
This is not just a new product but a subject of advocacy for the ACA, according to Mr. Hanvey. This addresses the embedded software in OEM parts and the need for the aftermarket to access it, he said.
"If an OEM part has a code, OEMs view that as property," he said. "Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the law is not allowing aftermarket parts to be installed.
"We are fighting with the U.S. Copyright Office to make sure consumers have the right to install aftermarket parts," he said.
The ACA is working not only with the SAE and ISO, but also the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Commerce Department in ensuring consumers' right to dictate where vehicle data are being sent, Mr. Hanvey said.
The association is also trying to educate consumers and is test-marketing a prototype "Your Car, Your Data, Your Choice" campaign, according to Mr. Hanvey.
"We're testing it in certain congressional districts to turn consumers into advocates," he said. "We're conducting a test market now, but we hope we don't have to launch it.
"If our talks with the OEMs are successful, we won't," he said. "But if talks break down, we can launch the campaign at a moment's notice."
Another pillar of the ACA's strategy is international trade, especially its collaboration with international auto trade associations, according to Mr. Hanvey.
The ACA has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Automotive Industry Association of Canada and the Mexican association ARIDRA to work together toward the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said.
Through a grant from the Commerce Department, the ACA has hosted a number of trade missions throughout Central and South America. The association has a year left on its grant, and in 2018 it is planning missions in Chile and Costa Rica, he said.
Fighting product counterfeiting — a longtime problem for the auto aftermarket—is another pillar of the ACA's program, according to Mr. Hanvey.
The association still has not heard back from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on its request that the office take action against Alibaba and other websites that, according to the ACA, offer sales platforms for auto parts counterfeiters.
However, the ACA continues to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify the paths counterfeiters take in bringing their fraudulent products to U.S. markets, he said.