Aluminum vehicles, OEMs highlight inaugural Motor City NACE/CARS

Detroit—With a show floor that doubled in size and a sizable increase in preregistered and walk-in traffic over last year’s show, the 32nd annual International Autobody Congress & Exhibition/Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (NACE/CARS) was a hit with attendees and exhibitors alike.

The event, held July 30 through Aug. 2 at the Cobo Center, was “a very successful show, not because we’re saying it, but because the vendors felt it,” Automotive Service Association (ASA) President and Executive Director Dan Risley said.

Although the final numbers had not been released as of press time, show organizers reported that preregistration was up more than 35 percent, with strong walk-in traffic contributing to an expected 75-percent jump over last year’s 5,000 registered attendees.

The expo featured 180 exhibitors filling up 50,000 square feet. New this year was more than 20,000 square feet of live-demo areas in the same hall. Showgoers could see celebrities such as car designer Chip Foose of “Overhaulin’” fame, demonstrating 3M and BASF products, and K.C. Mathieu of Gas Monkey Garage, spraying De Beer paint in the two Shop-Pro portable work stations. I-CAR representatives showed how to weld and rivet-bond aluminum.

Those activities would not have been possible at other exhibit halls, Risley said, noting that the Detroit fire marshal worked closely with show organizers.

“One thing we looked to accomplish by having it in Detroit was offering a show for the industry, about the industry, and we wanted people to participate on the show floor,” Risley said.

 ASA Chairman Darrell Amberson said although he was confident the event would be a success, organizers had to overcome the “stigma of Detroit” and a show that had been declining in attendance in recent years.

Risley said that the association’s choice of Detroit was initially met with some skepticism when it was announced at the 2013 NACE/CARS, which was held in mid-October in Las Vegas.

The Motor City was selected to attract more support from OEMs, and the domestics and several import marques were well-represented, with Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, and Nissan having large booths on the show floor.

Many NACE/CARS classrooms were full, with at least five classes having more than 80 people in attendance, Amberson said.

New to CARS this year was the Technology & Telematics Forum on Friday, which exceeded expectations by attracting 220 participants and forcing relocation to a larger room. A panel discussion focused on how advanced technologies, connectivity, and the Internet are changing modern automobiles, followed by a luncheon address by GM’s OnStar COO Terry Inch.

The popular MSO Symposium, also held on Friday, was renamed the Collision Repair Executives Symposium to reflect the change this year to include topics geared toward progressive collision-repair shop operators looking to expand. The symposium covered topics ranging from “Market Dynamics,” “Maximizing Capacity Utilization,” and “Changing Vehicle Design and Increasing Repair Complexity,” to “Anatomy of an Acquisition,” which was added this year to appeal to shop owners interested in divesting their business.

The big buzz at this year’s show was the aluminum 2015 Ford F-150, and Ford had a cutaway model showing its construction and repair methods. Ford also hosted three 90-minute sessions on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday away from the show floor to educate repairers on repair methods and on various aspects of Ford’s National Body Shop Program, administered by Assured Performance.

At those sessions, Ford Motor Co. engineers Larry Coan and Gerry Bonanni discussed how the new truck is designed with repairability in mind and what information is available for collision repairers, along with reviewing what tools and equipment will be needed to repair the new truck.

Coan pointed out that a number of Ford models have had some aluminum body panels for a while, including F-150s from 1997 on, so Ford’s focus on educating the repair industry has been concerned with structural repairs, which make up about 20 percent of insurance claims, he said.

“You’ve been bumping and painting aluminum panels for a long time now,” Coan said.

Although self-piercing rivets (SPR), which from a side profile when installed are reminiscent of the structure of a tooth’s root, make up the majority of the rivets on the truck, either Hemlok or flush-mounted rivets, which can be installed using a standard heavy-duty rivet gun, are also recommended fasteners, Coan and Bonanni said. Each replacement part’s packaging will include repair and sectioning instructions, as well as instructions for what rivets and adhesives are approved.

As an example of Ford-approved sectioning procedures, Bonanni said the rocker panel for the crew cab F-150 is an aluminum extrusion with multiple reinforcements, so it cannot be sectioned except behind the B pillar, while rockers for the standard cab and extended cab can be. The floor pan may be sectioned, although only the complete pan is sold, and either welding or riveting is the approved repair method.

“If you’re going to replace an SPR rivet, the rule is this, and it’s the same as you’ve learned in I-CAR aluminum training: you’re going to replace that self-piercing rivet in the same location with either a Hemlok or a solid rivet. If you’re replacing an SPR with an SPR, you go adjacent to the original hole. That’s the same across the entire industry,” he said.

Along with Ford, equipment vendors on the show floor and I-CAR representatives reminded attendees that “aluminum is not harder to repair than steel — it’s just different.” I-CAR offered its all-day structural repair training course for the new truck on Saturday.

At its conference on Wednesday, also at the Cobo Center, I-CAR focused on vehicle technology, including lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, advanced steels, and aluminum, along with advanced electronics in communications and safety. At the expo, it also rolled out its newly redesigned website and its Repairability Technical Support Portal, which provides OEM repair information, including whether specific parts are approved for sectioning and restraints systems (detailing which parts need to be replaced in a crash), and features an FAQ section for information not otherwise covered on the website.

As of press time, I-CAR has committed to returning to the 2015 NACE with its stage area, and was expected to decide by early September if it would schedule its conference at the same time as the show. CIC has given a verbal commitment to scheduling its forum at next year’s NACE, Risley said.

It’s also up in the air if NACE/CARS will return to Detroit, although Risley said he’s 90 percent sure it will. The ASA board of directors will decide after receiving feedback from exhibitors.

“If they’re happy, we’re happy,” Risley said. “But if we go around and talk to our big exhibitors and they say, ‘It wasn’t a good show, and we didn’t like the venue,’ then it doesn’t matter what we like. But we haven’t heard that.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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