1) BRENT BLACK
Brent Black may very well be one of the brightest industry visionaries you’ve never heard of. Recognizing the powerful role that the Internet could play in connecting automotive technicians, Black founded the International Automotive Technicians’ Network (iATN) back in 1995. The network began with a mere 50 members but as Internet access became more universal, membership grew to more than 1,000 members in just one year and more than 15,000 just two years later.
Today, iATN’s membership totals nearly 58,000 automotive repair professionals from 150 countries. iATN currently has 20 different topic-specific forums on its Web site, www.iatn.net. Topics cover every aspect of the automotive service industry from technical theory and tips to shop management and industry issues.
In June, Black sold iATN to Service Repair Solutions (SRS), a Las Vegas-based provider of information solutions for the service and repair industry. iATN will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary, under the direction of Black, with no planned changes to staff or policies.
2) JAY BURKHART
This coming year will mark a decade since Jay Burkhart first joined Federal-Mogul, through its acquisition of Cooper Automotive. In April, Burkhart, who previously served as vice president, global marketing and brand strategy for Federal-Mogul’s Aftermarket Products and Services (APS), was promoted to senior vice president, Global Aftermarket. With this promotion, Burkhart also serves as a strategy board member and corporate officer for the company.
Burkhart’s extensive industry marketing experience will be boon to the company as it plans to parlay the strength of some of its best-known brands into its new global growth strategy post-bankruptcy. Burkhart also puts his marketing skills to good use as vice chair of the Car Care Council’s “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education initiative. Burkhart was instrumental in the development of the Council’s Car Care Guide, of which more than 2 million copies have been distributed, in four different languages.
In addition to his success leading the efforts of the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign, Burkhart was recently recognized for his overall contributions to the industry. At this year’s AAPEX show the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA) presented Burkhart with the 2007 Pursuit of Excellence Award. Established in 1983, the award is presented annually to a member of AWDA in recognition of excellence in business performance and support for AWDA and its ideals.
3) CHARLIE GORMAN
It’s been a nearly two years since the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) became incorporated formally as a 501(c)-6 organization. With Charlie Gorman of the Equipment & Tool Institute at the helm, the organization has been working quickly to establish formal procedures for processing service information requests and has made significant headway in the past year.
Under Gorman’s direction, this year NASTF re-launched its Web site, which serves as an integral part of the new and improved Service Information Request (SIR) process, including posting of SIRs and tracking the responses. In addition, the site is frequently updated to include the latest information in its service, tools, training and collision matrices. The matrices are updated by both OEMs and service repair professionals who alert NASTF to any gaps in information.
The group is also actively engaged in developing its Secure Data Release Model (SDRM) and related Automotive Security Professional Registry. The SDRM is designed to provide 24/7 access to vehicle security information for pre-approved locksmiths and technicians.
4) GREG HENSLEE & TED WISE
Having worked in virtually every different position available at O’Reilly, Henslee and Wise know the business inside and out. It was this level of understanding, and a combined five decades of experience that allowed them to confidently make a number of significant changes at the Missouri-based parts retailer this year. Among the most notable was the announcement that O’Reilly would leave Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance at the end of this year, after nearly 30 years of affiliation.
At the same time O’Reilly unveiled Parts City Auto Parts, a new jobber marketing program for the independent jobber customers of O’Reilly/ Ozark Automotive. In the June announcement, Wise said, “We plan to provide our independent jobbers with the most aggressive marketing and advertising programs that they have seen to date.”
The program will include marketing and promotions assistance designed to grow sales with the retail and installer customer base. All O’Reilly/Ozark Independent Jobber Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper Stores are expected to be converted to the new Parts City program by the end of this year.
5) CARL ICAHN
Called the “shrewdest investor on the planet” by Money magazine, Carl Icahn’s financial footprint is leaving a significant mark on the automotive aftermarket. With Federal-Mogul scheduled to emerge from Chapter 11 on Dec. 27, Icahn will become one of the parts maker’s largest shareholders.
According to a recent Associated Press report, following its emergence from bankruptcy Federal-Mogul will be owned by commercial creditors led by Icahn, as well as individuals who have pursued claims for asbestos damages. Icahn plans to acquire the half of the company assets planned for asbestos claimants, potentially giving him control of the company.
This isn’t Icahn’s only foray into the auto parts market, however. In July, Lear Corp. shareholders rejected Icahn’s bid to buy the Southfield, MI-based automotive seat maker, an offer that would have bought out shareholders for $2.9 billion and taken on $2.5 billion in debt. In September, Icahn sold his shares in General Motors (guessed to be worth less than $15 million) because he said the public announcement of his plans to buy shares ran up the price of the stock.
Icahn, who reportedly wields about $12 billion in investment capital, has swooped in to help a number of well-known companies when there were floundering. His financial support has come to the aid of such major companies as Blockbuster, Motorola, TimeWarner and BJ’s Wholesale club, among others.
6) JACQUES LANDREVILLE
This influential leader in the distribution segment said he plans to hang up his hat this year. In November, Landreville announced his succession plan, turning over the reins on Uni-Select Inc. to Richard Roy, effective Jan. 1, 2008 . Landreville has been president and CEO of Uni-Select since 1991.
Jacques Landreville will remain a member of the board and will act as a special advisor to the president, a great thing for Uni-Select, given the powerful growth that has take place during his tenure.
When Uni-Select merged with MAWDI in 2003, the company significantly increased its reach into the US market. It has continued its expansion into the US market through a number of big acquisitions in the last few years. In the past year alone, Uni-Select has acquired three US distribution businesses including RPM Auto Parts (Thompson & Co. ), Consumer Auto Parts and Parts Distributors LLC, adding more than $100 million in annual sales. The company also recently announced a new distribution partnership with Canadian Tire, through which Uni-Select will provide automotive parts on an as-needed basis for parts not currently within Canadian Tire’s own inventory. It will also enable PartSource to source parts from Uni-Select’s warehouse distribution network. Uni-Select will be Canadian Tire’s preferred source for parts for the next three and a half years.
7) DICK MORGAN
At the end of this year, Dick Morgan, president and CEO of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, will wrap up a highly successful term as chairman of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA).
In addition to ending his term as AAIA Chair, Morgan announced in early December that his career at the helm of the Alliance was winding down as well. A search committee has been established with the intent of naming Morgan’s successor in about two years.
During his tenure at the Alliance , the group made a number of moves to ensure its positive growth and success as the market began showing signs of increasing globalization. Specifically, the Alliance expanded into the Mexican market (the Alliance now has seven shareholders in Mexico ) and also increased its presence in TEMOT International Autoparts distribution group.
Morgan serves on the board of TEMOT, as well as serving as chairman of the board of managers of Alliance Parts Warehouse and the Board of Trustees for the University of the Aftermarket. He also serves on the Academic Advisory Council of Northwood University.
Morgan has spent nearly five decades in the aftermarket, first with General Motors (GM) Corporation. He joined GM in 1962 as a field sales rep with AC Spark Plug Division. He spent more than 21 years at GM with his final position at GM as director of sales and marketing ACDelco/Europe/Mid East and Africa. He joined the Alliance when Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper merged in 2001.
Morgan is a graduate of Northwood University. In 1998, Northwood honored him with its Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award. In December 2002, the University honored him with a Doctor of Laws degree. In 2003, Morgan was named AWDA’s Automotive Leader of the Year.
8) BOB NARDELLI
Credited with turning Home Depot into the second largest retailer in the country, Bob Nardelli is a man who makes things happen. Using a unique management style that brought him success at both Home Depot and prior to that, General Electric, Nardelli is now tasked with revitalizing the Chrysler brand.
Nardelli spent 27 years at General Electric before joining Home Depot in 2001. While he managed to turn Home Depot into an $82 billion business, he came under fire for his exorbitant pay package, earning just over $38 million in his last year with the company.
In early August, Chrysler sold its majority interest in Chrysler Group to an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management. Now dubbed “The New Chrysler,” Nardelli will be leading Chrysler as the first privately owned major North American automaker in more than 50 years.
One challenge he will face is the slowing of domestic car sales in the past few years as consumers have been favoring import nameplates for their fuel efficiency and reputation for quality. Nardelli will also be challenged to resolve Chrysler’s financial problems which include an approximated $19 billion in pension and retiree healthcare costs. Critics and analysts in Detroit will watch Nardelli closely over the next few years as his success impacts more than just the Chrysler brand, it potentially stands to impact the fate of the Big Three and Detroit as well.
9) JEFF RACHOR
Jeffrey Rachor is yet another retail executive and new implant into the aftermarket charged with rebuilding the financial strength of one of the country’s oldest parts retailers. Rachor joined Pep Boys in March after serving for the past three years as president and CEO of Sonic Automotive, the largest automotive retailer in the US.
Pep Boys has been struggling to regroup from stagnant revenues the last few years. After reporting decreased third quarter sales in late November, Rachor announced the details of a five-year strategic plan that will include closing 31 low-return stores, about 5 percent of total store count. About 550 employees will be impacted by the closures.
Other features of the plan include plans to optimize square footage productivity and add incremental service bay density through a “hub and spoke” growth model, in the hopes of driving robust revenue and profit growth in each of its lines of business. Pep Boys also plans to reallocate a larger portion of its inventory investment to core automotive merchandise, including additional tire inventory, a broader parts assortment and more car customization accessories. To rebalance the company’s inventory, an aggressive mark down and sell-through program has been launched for certain non-core and unproductive merchandise.
10) THE SLOAN FAMILY
Few have the opportunity to make the kind of impact that the Sloan family will make on the aftermarket industry and future generations of aftermarket professionals.
Two years ago, O. Temple Sloan III, president of General Parts International (GPI) announced a major gift of $2 million to Northwood University’s aftermarket building project on its Midland , MI, campus.
In addition to the gift the Sloan family promised, two members of the Sloan family also established a challenge gift totaling $750,000 to encourage others in the industry to participate in the project. The challenge gift matched funds for the project on a three-to-one basis and as of Aug. 2006, $205,000 in gifts have been matched for a total of $615,000.
In March of last year, Northwood broke ground on the $6 million project, which will be the home of the university’s undergraduate degree program in automotive aftermarket management, the University of the Aftermarket and its executive level industry training programs. The facility is slated to open in the Spring of 2008.