I generally dislike those year-end articles in business magazines that try to wrap up everything that occurred in the entire year into one neat little 1,000-word essay. But this has been a unique year for many of us and I think I’ll make an exception this time and wrap it up. But I’m going to wrap it up without talking about the economy, the presidential election or the Wall Street/Main Street bailout. Instead, I’m going to provide you with information that pertains to you and your business today. I read a lot of my competitors’ magazines, and I feel sometimes that they lose sight of their reader, and instead write for their advertisers. I want to make sure that you understand this magazine is for you — the automotive repair shop owner, the automotive repair technician and the mobile distributor of tools and equipment. We want to give you insightful information that you can use.
That being said, let me give you a quick synopsis of Industry Week in Las Vegas. This is the big week in the year when manufacturers, distributors, technicians and other people associated with the automotive aftermarket descend on Las Vegas for a full week of industry interaction at the AAPEX, SEMA and CARS/NACE shows. I thought the event would be less well-attended than in years past, and it was. I thought there would be fewer new products introduced, and there were. The good news, I mean the really great news, is that most of the comments that were shared with me on the various show floors were generally positive about the future of our industry. Yes, several reported being even or down in sales, but the majority of manufacturers and distributors that I spoke with said they are looking forward to growth in 2009. Why? Several have scheduled key new product introductions for the first quarter next year. Several introduced key new product lines already this year and have begun shipping them with great success. These new products are designed to make your job easier, more productive and more profitable. You can read about many of them in this month’s issue.
Other key indicators for our business are positive as well. While Americans have reduced the number of miles driven each month for the past several months, our country still has a large population of vehicles on the road. There are more than 240 million vehicles being driven on U.S. roads today! The majority of these vehicles are in the prime repair age of 4-11 years old. And, even better news, Americans plan to hold onto their cars longer than in any time previously reported. Additionally, Steve Handschuh, president and COO of AASA, commented that the average number of repair orders written per month has grown steadily since January 2008. He also personally forecasted a cold winter — we all love that!
At Industry Week, many of our industry leaders voiced a commitment to the future of our business. Many manufacturers and distributors continue to try to fight inflation, especially as it affects the automotive aftermarket. They continue to drive innovation in products, services and cost controls. This is all good news for the future of your business!
Automotive repair business indicators are good. Economic indicators are not so good. In 2009, we’ll continue to see further declines in miles driven, and unemployment will most likely continue to climb. However, consumers have a need to extend the life of their vehicle. We’ve heard from many sources that auto repairs are being price shopped more than ever. People want value for their dollar spent. This is the best time for you to engage your customer in your business and use advertising to explain the benefits of your services. Because cars are lasting longer, extended maintenance continues to grow as an opportunity for you, not just handling the break-down repairs. Turn deferred repairs into cash for your business.
If you consider all these conditions, you should feel comfortable that a strong rebound is possible. It may not occur in the first quarter of 2009, but all indicators point to a good 2009 for our industry. It is times like these that require patience, as well as a willingness to take advantage of the opportunity to overtake competitors. Keep focused on long-term goals while you stay on top of your daily tactical requirements and you will come out of this economy a winner.
So, I didn’t wrap up 2008 for you like I thought I would when I first started to write this. I hope you can use some of the information from Industry Week to plan your success in 2009. That’s just one of the reasons we all come together for a week in November — to help each other improve our businesses.