On Friday, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), and its Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) segment, announced that it has become a major shareholder in OptiCat LLC, a global data management company founded in 2009 as a joint-venture between U.S.-based technology company MindQuest Inc. and Europe’s leading electronic data supplier, TecDoc Information Systems.
By purchasing a major stake in the business, MEMA and OptiCat have created what is believed to be the automotive aftermarket’s first supplier-owned electronic parts catalog data aggregator.
In conjunction with the acquisition, two MEMA/AASA executives will sit on OptiCat’s Management Committee, which determines the company’s general operating practices. According to Steve Handschuh, president and COO of AASA, the association will provide active input on much of the marketing and communications activities for the company, including public relations, advertising, brand promotion and user meeting planning. AASA also provides the conduit through which its members can provide input and direction to OptiCat’s functionality, he said.
When asked if MEMA and AASA have immediate plans to make any changes at OptiCat, Handschuh stated, “OptiCat successfully delivers data, reduces time-to-market and simplifies the entire process, so there are no plans to change its processes. However, subscription options and AASA member-preferred offerings will be established very soon with member input.”
Handschuh added that the association has scheduled a special meeting on Thursday, March 18, in Chicago, following the AASA Vision Conference, for AASA supplier members to discuss the current and planned functionality of OptiCat. Members’ feedback from this meeting will be integrated in future enhancements, according to Handschuh.
What does this acquisition mean for the automotive aftermarket as a whole?
According to Brad Duncan, general manager of OptiCat, this acquisition will allow for electronic cataloging in the U.S. automotive aftermarket to move from a “many-to-many” process to a more simplified, cost-effective “one-to-many” system, similar to what has already successfully been done in Europe. Duncan said that OptiCat will pick up what had been started by Free-Cat, a free industry-owned electronic catalog launched in March 2009.
Essentially, Duncan explained, the data compiled and organized by OptiCat will be fed to the reseller, which in this instance will primarily be the distributor. Catalog providers, distributors and distribution groups will become customers or “receivers” of the data aggregated by OptiCat, he said.
“We have this ‘many-to-many’ distribution problem,” Duncan said. “Everybody is going for the same data but they are all going for it independently. So the suppliers have all gotten together and said ‘Why don’t we just accumulate it at the supplier level?’ Distributors and retailers can then get it from one spot instead of going to 300 different places. So it cuts down those company’s costs significantly for data acquisition and it coordinates the effort at the manufacturer level so it’s not this ‘many-to-many’ approach, but more of a ‘one-to-many’ approach.”