For many of us in the Northern half of the nation, it has been a long, cold winter. Even in other areas not so prone to the bitter cold and huge snow cover, weather has been a bit extreme, with some areas of the West seeing monumental drought conditions. But the winter weather of the past three or four months bodes well for spring business in the auto aftermarket — good medicine for service outlets that have seen limited business opportunities, as most vehicle owners have optioned to just keep their cars, SUVs, crossovers and light-duty trucks on the road during the winter months while putting off a ton of work that must and will be done as the weather improves.
That is just one factor pushing positive signs in the auto care business, with real optimism seemingly in the back of many industry analysts’ minds looking into the first and second quarters of 2014 and beyond.
To begin with, miles driven closed strong in 2013, and that has added mileage to an ever-growing vehicle population available for aftermarket products and services. The vehicle fleet continues to grow as well, rapidly approaching the 12-year mark. BB&T’s Aftermarket Monthly Tune-up for February 2014 noted that “weather sensitive categories such as wiper blades and batteries to tires, ride quality and brake parts should experience a sales lift through the summer season.”
With this potential prosperity at hand, it is also good to see the auto care industry looking toward the future in being able to cash in on opportunities in the service bays, with the ground troops in the auto care service sector getting support in a variety of ways and from a number of fronts in the fight.
For example, on the collision side, the Collision Repair Education Foundation and 3M, through its “Hire Our Heroes” program, is funding special scholarship opportunities for veterans who want to begin a collision repair career by attending a collision repair community college or college. The scholarships will help pay for tuition and required books and tools for those veterans enrolling in school collision repair programs in the summer/fall of 2014, easing the financial burden of the recipient’s education. This is the second year for the program. The deadline for applications is Sept. 30, 2014, and interested veterans can apply by visiting the foundation’s website at www.CollisionEducationFoundation.org, under “Students” and “Hire Our Heroes.”
At the same time, we are aware of efforts by AAIA to support veterans wishing to entire the auto care industry, building relationships with such organizations as the USO, the Veterans Administration and various “wounded warrior” programs to give opportunities to those who more-than deserve it. Make no mistake, these are but a few examples of these types of programs blossoming throughout the aftermarket that not only support veterans but also replenish the talent in the bays, an on-going challenge this industry faces in the years ahead.
Even on the manufacturing side, there are examples of industry players partnering with educators to provide training in advanced manufacturing processes to build the skilled labor needed in the manufacturing side of the parts production. For example, Advanced Clean Air Technologies Global – manufacturer of catalytic converter substrates – is joining a partnership of regional educators, manufacturers, and representatives of state veterans and apprenticeship groups to train a new generation of workers for careers in advanced manufacturing technology.
The partners — Charlevoix Public Schools, Baker College of Cadillac, Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District and ACAT Global — located in the Charlevoix, MI area, plan to launch a CNC program this fall. The “CNC Center for Excellence,” located in the Charlevoix High School machine laboratory, would include certificate and associate degree options, with some students possibly funded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill program. That program addresses a critical issue for Michigan’s work force by providing education for workers in the advanced manufacturing technology field, supplying skilled labor for the numerous manufacturing companies located in the state with specific plans to target veterans.
We have talked about this in the recent past, and we want to take some time to acknowledge some of the successful efforts being developed throughout our industry. This industry needs more and more talent, and needs to develop every means it can to help develop and deliver skilled workers at all levels of the aftermarket. At the same time, as a society, we truly owe that much to those who have served, who have sacrificed, who have suffered, so we all can prosper and live free. We salute the exampled programs mentioned here and are glad to report others as they are announced in the future.
This is truly the definition of a win-win-win for our industry, our customers and these deserving veterans.
Gary A. Molinaro
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