Live demos, OEM service-readiness to drive NACE/CARS

Detroit—After a successful rebound year in the Motor City for its flagship event, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) expects an even bigger turnout for the 2015 International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE) and the mechanically oriented Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS), slated for July 21-25, at the Cobo Center.

NACE/CARS returns this year with more of what was popular in 2014, including the unique “live” vehicles demonstrating diagnostic tools on the CARS show floor, and paint-spraying and welding on the NACE show floor. Last year’s event drew more than 6,500 attendees.

“With other shows, the cars can’t run,” ASA Executive Director and President Dan Risley said. “You’re looking at a PowerPoint presentation and people are trying to show mockups. This year, we want to expand the scope of all of that, and we got approval from the fire marshal to have driveable vehicles on the show floor.”

Although details were not final at press time, Risley said the latest advancements in technology for communication and other driver-assist features will be demonstrated in an area separated from the rest of the show floor by concrete barricades.

An increased demand for booth space has allowed for an expansion in the live-demo areas at this year’s event. Risley and event management company Stone Fort predict an increase in exhibitor space of anywhere from 30 to 50 percent, which will push the show floor over to the adjacent hall. Attendance is also anticipated to be up, judging by early hotel reservations, which at press time were three times higher than at this point last year, Risley said.

In a departure from years past, CARS will focus on training for owners, managers, and service writers, he said, although the Young Technician Symposium, sponsored by Bosch, will return. That intensive, two-day program is intended to prepare technicians with a couple years of experience in light general repair and maintenance for electrical and driveability diagnostics.

“Strategically, the program we’re offering this year is not going to be in competition with our affiliates or anybody else that is doing technical training at a local level,” Risley said.

Participation from OEMs has increased this year, Risley said. The popular Technology and Telematics Forum returns, and new this year are “service-ready” programs designed to prepare a shop for repairs of ever-advancing vehicles.

“For example, if I wanted to start working on VWs, I’d like to hear from Volkswagen what exactly I need for tooling, training equipment, software, you name it, to repair a VW if it rolls into my shop,” Risley said. “They won’t be the nuts and bolts of how to repair a car, but more along the lines of, ‘Here’s what VW has, here’s what VW does, and here are the things you need to be successful in repairing a VW.’”

The Service Repair Leadership Forum, another new feature, is similar to the successful Collision Industry Conference (an event co-located with NACE) in bringing together stakeholders in the automotive service industry.

”We’ll be getting shop owners, car manufacturers, information providers, and parts distributors,” Risley said. “We want to be able to provide a conduit for the industry to come together to discuss issues.”

NACE live-demo activities, which last year included custom-car celebrities Chip Foose and K.C. Mathieu spraying products from 3M and BASF, and Valspar, respectively, along with welding and other technology demonstrations from Car-O-Liner, I-CAR, and Pro Spot, will also be expanded this year into what Risley described as “a learning environment of entertainment. We want an interactive show. We want it to be live and dynamic. We don’t want it to be static like the old days. It needs to be invigorating and entertaining to keep people on the show floor.”

To meet exhibitors’ requests, the expo will once again run through Saturday, as in years prior to last year’s event. Also back by popular demand is the MSO Symposium, which last year had been changed to the Collision Repair Executives Symposium to include larger single-location operators.

“But it diluted the message, and it diluted our content,” Risley said. “Last year we really shifted the content significantly because we were trying to appeal to those single-location facilities. We’re going to take the best of what happened last year: carefully targeting those who are larger operators and the MSOs, and building content around their input.”

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.