In our cover story for the January issue of AMN/Counterman, we asked distribution leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of 2022 and share some of their insights for the industry in 2023.
Here’s our Q&A with Sanjay Patel, president of Carquest.
AMN/CM: What did your organization accomplish in 2022 that you are most proud of?
SP: As I’ve transitioned into this new role, I’ve been incredibly impressed by our Carquest team and our family of independent owners, along with their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to the communities they serve. Our owners are resilient, and they find a way to win because they have hustle and heart.
With that said, there are three accomplishments that stand out, one being our first-annual Women of Carquest networking event. We had so many terrific women store partners in attendance, along with leaders from across our enterprise and industry. The breakout sessions and workshops were invaluable, and we’re already looking forward to hosting this again in 2023.
Another was our Leadership Summit in San Antonio, where we welcomed more than 525 store partners, members of our leadership team and supplier partners. After several years of virtual discussions and smaller group meetings, you could feel the energy in each mainstage session, training and panel discussion, especially as we unveiled our new Carquest logo and brand positioning.
I’m also proud of the passion our store partners have for supporting our military veterans. This was our first year fundraising for Hire Heroes USA, and our store partners helped us raise more than $100,000 to provide employment assistance for veterans entering the workforce.
AMN/CM: What are your thoughts about the business environment for the automotive aftermarket in 2023?
SP: Looking through the lens of our store partners, 2023 provides a strong environment for us to be successful. We’re seeing increases in personal vehicle usage and fleet miles driven. When you also consider advancing vehicle technologies as well as vehicles becoming more resilient, that creates health for our industry. These longer-lasting cars present a great opportunity, as older vehicles will require more repairs and maintenance, creating an increase on parts and supply demand.
And, when you bring in our Carquest independent owners, their product knowledge and unrelenting commitment to serving the customer … that’s where you get the magic!
AMN/CM: How can the independent aftermarket parts and service segments best prepare to repair the car of tomorrow as ADAS, EVs and other technologies become more prominent?
SP: I love this question, because I’m a car guy at heart! My background is in the service industry, and these technologies are so interesting to me.
The big area of opportunity is around training. Our independent owners can partner with Carquest Technical Institute (CTI) to offer training programs to repair shops. We encourage our owners to communicate this to their professional customers.
For a long time, technicians didn’t always have access to quality training. It always seemed to sit in the OE channel. Now, with CTI, Worldpac Training Institute (WTI) and events like the Supplier & Training Expo, we offer training on all makes and models, along with EVs, hybrids, ADAS and other emerging technologies. This increased availability of training helps technicians enhance their knowledge while giving independent repair shops the opportunity to serve a wider segment of the car parc. The fact is, there are a lot of vehicles – especially hybrids – that are hitting that six- to 15-year-old range. These vehicle owners are looking for options. They’re not just defaulting to taking their car to the dealership. When our owners communicate this training availability to repair shops, these shops can offer more services, serve more vehicles and tap into service revenues.