Auto Care Association President and CEO Kathleen Schmatz, who is retiring after 12 years at the helm, addresses the AAPEX 2015 General Session audience. She will be succeeded by Bill Hanvey, of AASA. AAPEX is co-owned by AASA and the Auto Care Association.Louis Efron, formerly of Tesla Motors, presents the keynote address.

AAPEX 2015 touts industry technology and innovation

New product announcements and initiatives inform and educate record-breaking attendance

Las Vegas—If the products and classes offered at the Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo (AAPEX) in Las Vegas, Nov. 1-4, provided indication as to where the industry is headed — and what it’s presently being transformed by — it’s technology. It’s a constant reminder that it needs to be embraced and that it’s a harbinger of things to come.

Keynote speaker Louis Efron, formerly of Tesla Motors, presented a brief history of the electric car and ramped it up to today’s Tesla Model S, which can accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in 3.2 seconds.

“The purpose of an industry, business or product, is the magic that drives it forward,” he said.

Much of that magic is in the development of new innovations in product technology, both for new vehicles and for the aftermarket, and they were on display throughout the show, which was a sold-out event, featuring 2,300 exhibitors and more than 166,000 attendees, compared to 145,000 in 2014.

As Bill Long, AASA president and COO, noted during a media briefing an hour prior to AAPEX opening, the event revitalized its look, along with new and expanded services to enhance attendee experience. There were more than 65 educational seminars focusing on topics such as “Disruptive Technology,” “Technology in Operating Your Business,” “Vehicle Systems and Technology,” and others.

“These are exciting times for our industry and for suppliers, in particular, who are at the forefront of the transformation we are seeing,” he said. “At the risk of stating the obvious, we are now part of a high-tech industry and ‘Connectivity’ will present both opportunity and some risks.”

Telematics in existing vehicles have not had a dramatic impact on repair behavior and independent repairers are not threatened — yet, Long said. “This is not simply who owns the data. This is about creating a level playing field that will enable independent service providers to perform the same maintenance and repair as offered by the car manufacturer and their dealer network, providing motorists the freedom of choice.”

Other speakers and seminar panelists discussed a forthcoming domination of a foreign nameplate vehicle market, the potential fall of the independent jobber as the industry consolidates, and other changes in the distribution channel as it continues to shift. New product launches and announcements were also peppered throughout AAPEX, from diagnostic tools and shop management systems to technician training initiatives and new supplier relationships.

For the first time, a television crew broadcasted live from the show. AAPEX TV aired on big screens prominently displayed in the lobbies of the Sands Expo and on the show floor, presenting the keynote address, awards ceremonies, special events, AAPEXedu session wrap-ups, and interviews with thought leaders and industry experts.

Also for the first time in recent memory, the Las Vegas Boulevard closed temporarily on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 5, to accommodate 3,000 Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance customers who made their way from the Mirage to Sands Expo. The Alliance customers, who are automotive technicians and jobbers, participated in pre-arranged meetings with approximately 80 preferred Alliance suppliers who exhibited at the event, as well as AAPEXedu sessions that focused on disruptive and emerging technology. AAPEX is co-owned by AASA and the Auto Care Association.

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.