AAPEX 2012 showcases more than new aftermarket tools; a bold new role for independent shops

A new automotive age was on full view at the AAPEX and SEMA shows in Las Vegas in October. At AAPEX, which focuses more than SEMA on the professional market, VehicleServicePros.com kept attendees abreast of exciting developments at the AAPEX tool and equipment lounge, where our staff presented the 2012 PTEN Innovation Awards and, for the first time, conducted live streaming video interviews during the show.

This year, the AAPEX product showcase expanded from displaying new products to include “must have” and “innovative” products. These include many diagnostic tools that shops need to meet the challenge of new automotive technology.

New OEM technology – such as electric hybrids, telematics, automatic start/stop functionality, absorbed glass mat batteries and more — challenges both the aftermarket’s repair capabilities and its business model.


OEs’ aftermarket needs

With new technologies giving cars more versatility than ever, some OEs are recognizing that independent repair shops are an aftermarket channel they cannot ignore. These OEs recognize that their own dealers cannot meet the full demand for aftermarket services made possible by some of the new technology. Because of this, they are doing more to support the independent shops.

Mark Saxonberg of Toyota Motor Sales USA presented a session at AAPEX on service readiness that detailed the areas where independent shops need to improve. He noted that according to recent research, over 90 percent of independent techs are aware that they have full access to OE service information and tools, but only 51 percent currently utilize this access with any frequency when needed. Saxonberg believes this lower use of available resources is due to continued reliance on outdated business models that discourage investment in appropriate resources. He cited Houston, Texas-based Christian Brothers Automotive as one of many aftermarket service readiness success stories.

The telematics challenge

One game changing technology covered in depth at AAPEX is telematics, the marrying of GPS and other wireless communications for remote diagnostics. During a telematics seminar, Scott Luckett of AAIA described the challenges and opportunities telematics presents the independent aftermarket.

Telematics-enabled remote diagnostics helps to streamline shop management. Shops can know what level tech is needed before a car comes in for service or repair, and what parts and tools might be needed for the work. In addition, telematics allows shops to offer customers a maintenance plan tailored to their driving habits. Every time a vehicle has a “check-engine” light, worn brakes or needs an oil change, the motorist can be contacted and directed to a shop for service.

Luckett claimed that by 2016, 62 percent of all new cars will have factory-equipped telematics. If this forecast is correct, the independent aftermarket has a big job on its hands since factory-equipped telematics have the potential to strengthen the OEs’ hold on repair and maintenance service.

Fortunately, companies such as Delphi have come forward with aftermarket solutions specially designed for the independent aftermarket. Delphi, winner of the “AAIA Telematics Challenge,” presented its solution at AAPEX. Jim Dykstra, owner of a Troy, Mich. repair shop, described his experiences using third-party data in conjunction with Delphi telematics. He called it the best thing to ever happen to his business.

Aftermarket shop owners and service techs need to recognize how technology is changing the automotive industry. It is creating new aftermarket tools that can help independent shops play a bigger role in automotive aftermarket than ever.

To view the VehicleServicePros live streaming video at AAPEX, go to: www.VehicleServicePros.com/aapex/video.