Vision for the Future
The industry is graying. As baby boomers retire, we need to find fresh new talent to lead the industry, and we need to find new customers. As an industry we need to use every tool at our disposal to show the next generation that the aftermarket offers both amazing careers and incredible entertainment as a hobby. I have the ideas, vision and ability to execute to make this happen, to protect our future.
The Issues We Face Today
The retirement of the baby boomer generation tied to a strong economy means most of our members are experiencing a boom time right now. Companies are growing and sales are strong as the last true “gearhead generation” is in an economic position to build and buy collector vehicles, RVs, etc. However long term, I see the following challenges facing our industry.
Finding New Consumers
We not only need new consumers, we also need to pivot and adapt to find ways to communicate with them and develop products they want. I believe we need to act quickly to push the research department to mine big data to help our members prepare for this. Global vehicle platforms, the continued demise of both manual transmissions and ICE engines and shifting young consumer tastes away from pre-72 domestic vehicles to 1980s-00s euro and Japanese vehicles are all going to change our market whether we like it or not, so we need to help our members prepare for it.
The Distribution Model is Changing Rapidly.
A decade ago nearly all of our manufacturers sold through multi-step distribution. Now more than half sell direct to consumer and that number grows exponentially every year. This is not only effecting WDs and brick-and-mortars, it also creates new challenges (and opportunities) for the manufacturers. Proper MAP policies and enforcement, learning now the navigate the minefield of Amazon sales, e-commerce sales tactics and even taxation are all issues the industry is having to tackle quickly.
The dramatic increase of Private Equity funding in our industry, where company founders and innovators are selling to investment groups who are bundling companies, is both an opportunity and a threat. The culture of our industry will change, but if managed correctly we can become stronger as a result. However without the proper guidance and attention, many legendary brands and the community nature of our industry may disappear. I believe this can be managed by offering business owners information, seminars and education on how to manage this process in the best possible way.
Government regulation is a looming threat that keeps me up at night. Even with the current administration leaning towards less regulation on emissions and fuel economy, we are still faced with a Washington DC bureaucracy that – no matter who is in office – increasingly sees our industry as a threat. We must act decisively and quickly to protect our individual rights and our industry from government overreach so that our businesses and the trade show and association it supports continue to exist in the coming decades.