Attendees of the Global
Automotive Aftermarket Symposium's (GAAS) 2014 Connected conference were
engaged in a range of high-level topics affecting the automotive
aftermarket now and in the future.
Mike Buzzard, vice president of marketing at Uni-Select USA, led a
discussion on telematics that drew a great deal of interest partially
because of the uncertainty as well as possibilities it brings.
At its most basic level, telematics "is the car raising its hand and
saying it needs something," said Jim Dykstra, president, Aftermarket
Telematics Technologies LLC and CEO, Dykstra's Auto Service. Selling the
benefits of telematics to fleets is one thing, Dykstra said. "The
consumer side is different. There is no silver bullet for this."
William Strauss, senior economist and economic adviser for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, provided a wide-ranging overview of the global economy.
The important thing, Dykstra continued, is for aftermarket companies to
be ready at the customer's point of need. "Will your company be ready?"
Malcolm Sissmore, North America sales director for telematics,
diagnostic tools, service and training and country director for Canada,
Delphi Product & Service Solutions, said aftermarket companies must
position themselves to thrive because of telematics, not just survive
it. The area of predictive analytics, which includes the ability to
predict when parts will wear out or fail, Sissmore said, "is something
the aftermarket can do better than the OEs." The aftermarket needs to
use OBD data and convert it to use in our businesses, Sissmore said.
Buzzard reviewed Uni-Select's SmartLink, which is exclusive for use at
Auto Plus. "It's game-changing, futuristic, a differentiator," he said.
SmartLink is a first-ever aftermarket opportunity to connect to their
customer to bring just-in-time information for driving assurance,
Buzzard said. "The shop owner has to be able to communicate the value of
a connected car to the vehicle owner," he added.
William Strauss, senior economist and economic adviser for the Federal
Reserve Bank of Chicago, provided a wide-ranging overview of the global
economy. He told attendees the U.S. economy will expand at a pace
slightly above trend in 2014 and at a faster pace next year.
Light vehicle sales gains will slow to around 3 percent this year and
next year, he said. And while the U.S. still isn't at full employment,
the country's workforce is still incredibly efficient, he added. "The
risks I see are outside the United States," Strauss said. "I don't think
China is, in fact growing at 7.5 percent ... China has very similar
problems to the U.S., but even worse. Income disparity, aging population
they're gong to be looking at population falling." And, Strauss said,
"We still can't take our eyes off Europe."
In more financial discussion, GAAS 2014 turned to Jim Carter of Ernst
& Young Capital Advisors, who led a discussion on automotive
aftermarket mergers and acquisition and private equity involvement in
the industry. He was joined onstage by Adam Gottlieb, senior managing
director and founding principal, Industrial Opportunity Partners, and
John Hatherly, managing partner, Wynnchurch Capital.
As the economy improves, there will be more aftermarket deals in the
future, said Hatherly, who added that aftermarket companies are
attractive because there is a lot of predictability inherent in the
industry. Industrial Opportunity Partners acquired Edelbrock. "It's a
very exciting, fun business to be involved in," Gottlieb said.
Net proceeds from GAAS, which is in its 19th year, are invested in the
organization’s scholarship fund to help students get their automotive
aftermarket careers started. During Tuesday's sessions, Pete Kornafel,
chairman of GAAS scholarship committee, told attendees that scholarships
have been awarded to more than 1,700 students, representing $1.7
million in aid.
GAAS continues this morning with a half-day of presentations and will conclude this afternoon in Chicago.