Automotive professionals offer perspectives on 2017 and what’s ahead for 2018
Record attendance and enthusiasm at AAPEX and SEMA and the projections by the Auto Care Association that the auto care industry will reach $381 billion in value at the end of 2017 are indicators this past year was a healthy one for the repair and service industry. And the association, in its 55-page 2018 State of Auto Care report, said that heading into 2018 the auto care industry has an opportunity for “expansion and evolution.”
With projections that auto care will reach $421.2 billion by 2020, plus the fact that the number of 16-year-old or older vehicles will increase by 30 percent to 81 million by 2021, the Auto Care Association paints a positive outlook for those who want to be players over the next several years.
Perspectives from the Northwest
“NATA will charge into 2018 very confident due to record member growth in 2017,” said Cathi Webb, executive director of the Northwest Automotive Trades Association (NATA) based in Portland. She contributes the growth to an increased discount (20 percent) on the association’s SAIF (workers compensation program), the addition of a new broker for health and dental insurance programs, and “three incredibly supportive boards.”
Webb said going into 2018, the feedback from repair facilities “is that their shops are extremely busy and in many cases they are backlogged. One reason could be that consumers are now keeping and driving their vehicles for an average of 11 years, longer than in 2016.”
One concern most members communicate to Webb is they need qualified employees. “There is definitely a shortage of new blood entering our industries. NATA is working hard to assist with this as Staff Member Margaret Ragan has participated in developing a portfolio review session at many colleges, which allows NATA members to help automotive students prepare for interviews. Students prepare portfolios and have mock interviews,” she said. “In many instances, NATA businesses have hired students through this process.”
NATA was also directly involved last year in the passage of Measure 98, which appropriates funding for Oregon’s schools tech programs, she said. “We’re hopeful there will soon be positive growth in these programs.”
Also on the legislative front, Webb said NATA is helping to rewrite HB3322, a bill that requires automotive and collision repair shops to have a bond in order to place a lien on a vehicle.
“When NATA heard this was going to pass, despite pushback, we got involved with the help of our lobbyist, Darrell Fuller, and now we are rewriting the bill with input from members,” she said. “NATA killed the first bill, which would have overregulated repair shops.
“We are excited about 2018 and looking forward to another growth year for our incredible members.”.
ASA Northwest looks to build on 2017 success
“If 2017 is any indicator of what’s going to happen in 2018, it’s going to be a fast-paced year with ever-changing technology,” said Jeff Lovell, AMAM, president and executive director of ASA Northwest.
“ASA Northwest had a great 2017 with our membership involved in a variety of events, including retreats, chapter meetings, our golf outing, Lights-on campaigns, Kids First program, our Leadership Conference geared for chapter leaders, the Automotive Training Expo (ATE), and other training and community programs we offered throughout the region,” he said.
“The Automotive Service Association (ASA) is the largest and most effective group of independent shop owners in the U.S., and is a volunteer-driven organization that works diligently on advancing education, networking, and advocacy,” Lovell said, adding that ASA works hand in hand with NASTF, ASE, AMI, and other programs, and has national lobbyist to address legislative issues.
“In the Northwest, we are fostering business growth through mentoring, training, and peer networking, all key issues that helped make 2017 successful for ASA Northwest members,” he said.
“ATE 2017 was our fourth consecutive year of being sold out for training and the training helps shops, whether they are members or not, grow and operate their businesses successfully,” Lovell said. “We had 650 training attendees from multiple states and Canada in 2017, and our March 2018 event will likely sell out by February.”
Due to technician shortages, Lovell said a major focus for ASA Northwest for 2018 will be the further development of an Automotive Apprenticeship Program in Washington, spearheaded by Ed Cushman of Spokane (chair-elect of ASA national), along with Butch Jobst of Aberdeen (chair-elect of ASA Northwest) and a committee of shop owners and industry professionals.
“We’ve been working with several State of Washington entities, including L&I, Workforce Central, colleges across the state, and other groups to get this important program up and running,” Lovell said. “We have an aging industry workforce and we need to address the issue of training qualified professionals.”