A new south-of-the-border aftermarket industry convention is making its debut this summer with the inaugural edition of the July 9-12 Latin Auto Parts Expo at the Atlapa Convention Center in Panama City, Panama.
A series of educational seminars and business conferences will be offered to augment an array of trade show booths aimed at providing manufacturers, distributors and retailers direct access to the Latin American and Caribbean OEM, replacement parts and tuning markets. The plan is to foster “a warm and personal setting that forges long-lasting commercial and personal relationships,” according to show director Linda Bassitt.
“Our goal is to do what doesn’t currently exist – a regional auto parts show; everyone meets once a year in Panama,” she explains. “Panama is a central location to get to, and you can meet exhibitors that you haven’t met at other shows.”
Bassitt contends that the previous exposition offerings throughout the region fall short of delivering comprehensive coverage. “Before, you had to go to the individual countries because the buyers are usually from the countries where the show is being held. We started this because we think the industry is lacking a regional show, and this is much easier and more effective.”
The categories to be featured include air conditioning, automotive lighting, LED lighting, electrical systems and batteries, electronics, cooling systems, friction and brake systems, GPS systems, undercar, new and remanufactured replacement parts, HD sound and video systems, suspension and front end systems, engine and transmission parts, chemicals and chemical fluids, equipment and tools, diagnostic systems, hand tools, machine shop equipment, service and installation equipment, waxes and polishes, computer systems and software, paint and body, retail and warehouse fixtures, high performance auto parts and various enhancers.
“We’re kind of like mixing SEMA and AAPEX all in one show,” says Bassitt, citing the positive reaction generated at the expo’s booth at November’s AAPEX event in Las Vegas. “It’s a unique show.”
Exhibiting or attending can be especially informative and rewarding for aftermarket businesses that are considering entry into the region. “If you’re new, you can step your foot in the water without a lot of risk,” says Bassitt. “It’s a lot easier to deal with all the Latin American and Caribbean distributors.”
Among the exhibitors already on board is Miami-based Rapid Parts, Inc. Founded in 1976, the company has been mainly focused on selling its lines of Volkswagen and Audi components, performance parts and accessories in the U.S. and Canada. “We’re going to tackle the Central-South and Caribbean,” reports general manager Robert Tanon.
Eager to network with key regional business executives and pursue enhanced distribution capabilities, “Panama is very close to everything,” he observes, “it’s a strategic location.”
“If you are looking to expand your market share to these regions, then this is definitely the show to be at,” says Bassitt.
The event is being produced by Latin Expo Group LLC, which is headquartered in Miami with an office in Panama. The company has had considerable success since introducing Panama’s Tyre Expo five years ago. Also hosted by the Atlapa Convention Center, the 2014 edition will be held July 23-26.
Displaying consistent growth, 85 nations were represented at last year’s Tyre Expo that attracted 4,000 attendees amid 220 exhibitors. “We had visitors from around the world – we have global coverage,” says Bassitt, anticipating a similarly receptive response for the Latin Auto Parts Expo.
“The Latin American and Caribbean markets have been growing at an impressive rate, and the outlook is very positive for future increases in the new vehicle and aftermarket automotive parts industry,” according to Bassitt.
“With its Duty Free Zone, Panama is a strategic location for the Expo. Panama has a stable democratic government that is business-friendly,” she reports. “Panama is an international air and ocean hub enabling travelers and cargo to reach Latin America, the Caribbean and most of the globe.”
Discounts on air fares and hotels are being offered, and there is no charge for admittance to the event. “We want to make it easy for the attendees, who are mainly buyers,” Bassitt points out.
Americans going to Panama do not need visas. The U.S. dollar is the standard currency, and although Spanish is predominately spoken, much of the population is educated in English. Interpreters will be available to help overcome language barriers.
“As an American traveling to Panama it’s relatively easy,” says Bassitt. The convention center is sleek and modern, she adds, noting that Panama City is known for its friendly people and an up-to-date cosmopolitan atmosphere: “It resembles Miami in a lot of ways.”
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