NACE/CARS focuses on new technology and collaborative environments
Detroit—To paraphrase an 1980s advertising slogan, this is not your father’s automobile, as vehicle construction is rapidly moving away from mild steel and toward materials such as high-strength steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber.
Knowing how to service and repair new high-tech vehicles figured prominently in the classrooms and on the trade show floor at the 33rd annual International Autobody Congress & Exhibition/Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (NACE/CARS), held for the second year in a row in Detroit’s Cobo Center, July 21-25, and presented by the Automotive Service Association (ASA).
Classes and show-floor demonstrations included information on how vehicles made of aluminum, high-strength steel, and carbon fiber must be repaired, with trainers on hand from OEMs, equipment manufacturers, and industry consultants. Common to those sessions was the need for repairers to consult OEM recommendations, as materials and repair methods may change from one model year to the next, even if they look similar.
The Technology & Telematics Forum matured in its second year, going from introducing the concept of the connected car at last year’s show to becoming more complex and including participants such as engineers, NHTSA representatives, and parts suppliers.
“We are trying to build a collaborative environment between the repair industry, the OEs, and of course, all others involved in the industry,” said ASA Chairman Donny Seyfer, operations manager at Seyfer Automotive in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
Seyfer said that for CARS sessions, ASA will continue to focus more on management and leadership and not as much on technical information, as ASA leadership doesn’t want to compete with regional shows for that same training, including those shows presented by its affiliates. This year, there were 30-minute classes on topics such as “Creating a Buzz: Inexpensive Ways to Get People Talking About You.”
“We’re doing these little short classes at CARS because what we learned is you guys are really good at what you do,” Seyfer said at a panel discussion. “You don’t need us to tell you ground-up how to do something. You just need us to give you a little nugget you can take home with you to your business.”
Also new this year was the all-day Young Technicians Symposium, “powered by” Bosch. Veteran instructor Jim Wilson used a live training simulator to teach electrical and on-board diagnostic techniques to technicians not yet established in their field but with one-year experience in an automotive training program or two years of real-world experience.
The popular MSO Symposium also returned this year, joined this year for the first time by the similarly modeled Service Repair Leadership Forum. Co-located events such as the Collision Industry Conference, Motor Equipment Remanufacturers Association, and the Canadian Collision Industry Forum, brought more attendees into Detroit for the week, for a total of more than 8,000 industry professionals.
Keynote speaker Allison Hickey, a retired brigadier general who serves as undersecretary for benefits in the Department of Veterans Affairs, urged shop owners and managers to look to the pool of available veterans to help fill the need for technicians.
“Veterans have proven they’re going to show up to the job on time,” she said. “They’re going to come with a commitment and a loyalty and a sense of teamwork. They’re used to working with high-tech equipment, they’re used to fixing high-tech equipment, with a huge focus on safety, and they’re used to working long hours in a team environment.”
Those looking to hire veterans can list their openings at ebenefits.va.gov, she said.
Attendance up slightly, but show floor activity slows
With the show floor expanded this year to 54,500 square feet of booths, there was a slight increase in attendance, with more than 6,600 automotive professionals visiting the Expo.
Features were added last year to boost traffic on the show floor, including live demonstrations such as welding in manufacturers’ booths and an I-CAR demonstration area, and car designer Chip Foose demonstrating 3M products and painter K.C. Mathieu demonstrating Valspar’s DeBeer paint in mobile prep stations from Shop-Pro.
“It helped redefine what our show was about — being more interactive,” ASA Executive Director and President Dan Risley said at a wrap-up press conference.
Still, show-floor traffic seemed down from last year, Risley said, suggesting the need to review scheduling so that other events going on at the same time don’t interfere with show floor traffic.
NACE/CARS moves to Anaheim, Calif., next year
ASA has announced plans to alternate venues each year, with Detroit serving as a “hub,” although it’s unknown if the show will come back every other year or every third year. It’s possible that other Eastern cities, such as Nashville or Orlando, will come into play, given exhibitor support.
The venue for the 2016 show will be Anaheim, Calif., Aug. 9-13. Just as participation from OE manufacturers was seen as integral to the support of NACE/CARS in Detroit, ASA is pursuing participation of the mostly Asian-nameplate manufacturers in Southern California, Risley said.
The Detroit-area manufacturers will continue providing support in the new venue, Risley said. Drawing a comparison to a strip mall, he said, “Our anchor tenants are the OEs. We would not have made the decision to move the show without their support.”