AAAA: Workshops Hit Hard By COVID-19

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) commissioned ACA Research to survey over 300 automotive service and repair workshops on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report saw 83 per cent of automotive service and repair workshops suffering a decrease in revenue, with half experiencing a downturn of more than 30 per cent.

The AAAA says the automotive service and repair workshop sector is one of the country’s largest, employing around 150,000 people in 23,000 small businesses.

“When people aren’t getting their vehicle serviced or repaired, that results in wider implications for businesses that make, sell and distribute brakes, oils, engine parts, tyres, etc., a sector itself that employs an additional 360,000 people,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA. “The survey revealed an industry under intense stress but also displaying remarkable resilience. Despite taking such a financial hit, the auto repair and service industry is highly optimistic about the future, higher than any other small and medium business type.”

The survey found that Victoria is the most affected state with 61 per cent experiencing a 30 per cent or more decline in revenue, while Queensland is the least affected at 41 per cent.  Regional areas have been less affected with a little over half of metropolitan workshops experiencing a 30 per cent or more revenue reduction, compared to 40 per cent regionally.

Charity believes the industry had been hit hard because consumers were unsure about whether they could go to a workshop, partially due to state restrictions and advice to stay home.

“Despite this, most see this unprecedented situation as having a short-term impact,” said Charity. “They share a level of confidence about the ongoing viability of their business and they are more optimistic of a bounce back than any other sector. My discussions with industry leaders indicate a shared understanding that there will be a bounce when restrictions are lifted. We are hearing of workshops sharing staff between stores within the same group to help each other cope on the busy days and to keep their valued workers in jobs.

AAAA Welcomes COVID-19 Stimulus Programmes

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has congratulated the government for its stimulus and financial support package for COVID-19, designed to support all businesses in the automotive supply chain.

“These payments are going to make a remarkable difference to our industry,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA. “We have modelled these programmes to simulate the benefit for our members and for many, it’s going to mean the difference between surviving this crisis and shutting the doors permanently.”

The AAAA says it performed analysis which shows that for an average automotive workshop of five to six people, the stimulus packages are going to deliver real benefits to the bottom line.

“These packages are designed around keeping employees, which is something every one of our parts manufacturers, vehicle modifiers, auto workshops, parts suppliers and parts retailers want to do,” said Charity.

The AAAA has promoted all the announced packages after simulating what the programmes may mean and how easy it is to apply. The programmes that are receiving the greatest interest from the automotive industry include the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure, which can deliver a maximum of $100,000 to small to medium businesses, apprenticeship and trainee programmes that can provide up to $21,000, and the new JobKeeper payment programme which can provide $1500 per employee per fortnight for six months.

“The challenge for us as an industry association is, firstly, to encourage our members that are not normally recipients of grants and incentives to factor this funding into their thinking about whether their business will survive, and secondly, to ensure that they register or apply for these programmes,” said Charity.

The Boosting Cash Flow for Employers programme will occur automatically, but other programmes require a registration process and AAAA says its efforts are currently dedicated to getting the message out that the stimulus packages are real and that they can make the difference between survival and collapse of the business.

“For our workshops and our retailers, these programmes are unique,” said Charity. “We are getting that message out because previous economic stimulus programmes require business to make an upfront investment and the government rewards that investment with funds or with accelerated depreciation/instant write off. These programmes simply require that our companies keep their employees engaged, something we are happy to do and want to do.

“We know from our experience of the global financial crisis that this makes a difference. Immediately after the GFC, the businesses that maintained a relationship with their employees recovered quicker and were more sustainable in the long run.

“We are hearing some confusion from customers that think we are closed – we are certainly not closed and our sector will remain open, provided we meet all of the required precautions until we are instructed by [the] government to close. We are maintaining very regular communication with [the] government to ensure that we know when and what advice to give to our members. The message so far is simple – establish the required precautions, minimise physical contact and remain open for business to support the community in this difficult time.

“Many households are now very reliant on essential support services from local government and close family members to deliver food and other supplies. We are a critical service to ensure that these cars can stay on the road safely and we are continuing to deliver emergency repairs and critical maintenance services. We do understand that some in the community may think that their regular service can be delayed, but please don’t make that decision on your own – call your workshop and find out if your next service includes critical components. Similarly, we can’t afford for any vehicle to run low on oil. If you are worried about taking time for a full service, see if you can at least call in and have the oil topped up. You will do irreparable damage to your car if you ignore any warning lights on your dash. In the first instance, call your mechanic – they are happy to talk through what your options are.”

According to the AAAA, the automotive maintenance and repair sector is adapting and surviving. Some workshops have chosen to close, but the association’s assessment is that less than two per cent of workshops have done so. The AAAA says most automotive repairers have put special measures in place including contactless service, such as key drops that do not require human-to-human contact. Similarly, new processes have been put in place in which the internal surfaces of the vehicle and the external entry points are all sanitised prior to returning the vehicles.

“Our members make sure that the car is sanitised before it is returned to the customer – the steering wheel, doors, dash, gear stick – basically every surface is sanitised and the car is certainly safer than when it was dropped off to us,” said Charity.

The AAAA says everyone is adapting as best as they can, and many are offering quicker essential safety checks and sanitising as a free service.

“We have a remarkably agile and innovative sector,” said Charity. “Our members are responding by delivering services differently or delivering new services that speak directly to our customers’ concerns about safety, reducing any risk of contracting the virus and having a safe, reliable means of transport to keep the household running and to look after vulnerable members of our community. We will keep doing this for as long as we possibly can.”

AAAA Celebrates 40 Years Serving the Automotive Aftermarket

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) is celebrating its 40th anniversary as part of the automotive aftermarket industry.

As the only independent, national, member-owned organisation representing the Australian automotive aftermarket, the AAAA has had a wide-reaching and definitive impact on the industry, its members and customers.

The association was founded in 1980 by a group of businesses that became concerned with regulatory developments in Australia and their impact on the automotive aftermarket, choosing to come together as the ‘Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association’ to better the industry. The body was set up as a not-for-profit organisation, operating under the direction of an executive director and board of respected industry representatives.

“This year is a special milestone for the AAAA and one we are very proud of,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA. “For 40 years and through the support of our members, we have acted in the best interests of the industry and continuously affected positive change. As an association, we can hold our head high and be proud of our achievements.”

From beginnings under the leadership of founding Executive Director and President Graham Rose, the industry has seen huge changes across four decades. The AAAA said it has championed and positively resolved many issues facing the industry.

Legalising extractors, eye level brake lights and trolley jacks were some of the first major undertakings of the AAAA in those formative years. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, the introduction of fuel injection and rise of Japanese and European vehicles required market adaption and regulatory support. In more recent times, the 4WD modification market and performance scenes have generated growth in the industry, and at the same time, created their own set of challenges and opportunities.

The AAAA has also long championed one of the aftermarket industry’s largest issues in recent times – mandatory data sharing. The association felt vindicated when the Australian government officially announced that it would become law last year – a milestone moment for the AAAA.

“Although we are proud of the past and have learned some important lessons over the course of 40 years, the AAAA continues to look forward,” said Charity. “As time has marched on, the AAAA has grown and evolved as an organisation. The world today is more complex and fast paced, and we have to continually adapt to ensure we have the strength, knowledge and resources to effectively represent our members, their customers and the broader industry.

“The automotive aftermarket can be assured we will continue to be here for them, in their corner, as we always have been. We look forward to collaborating with members to help them be prepared for what the future holds,” said Charity.

AAAA Adds Two Senior Leadership Roles

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has created two new senior leadership roles – Head of Operations and Strategy, and Head of Membership and Marketing – which it says are designed to add more membership value and drive strategic opportunities that will benefit the broader industry.

“With recent growth of the Association and the scope of work we are undertaking for our members and the broader industry, it is important that we bolster our resources to fulfil our purpose and strategic objectives,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA. “These new leadership roles will help AAAA to have a clear strategic direction and drive efficiencies and growth that will benefit members.

“The appointments made to fill the new roles bring an enormous amount of talent, experience and leadership capability into our organisation. They will provide expertise and resources needed to help drive the strategic direction and growth of our business as we continue to expand our industry influence and membership value.”

The AAAA said Tiffany Conway was appointed as Head of Membership and Marketing to deliver a comprehensive membership strategy to drive sustained growth and member satisfaction. Conway will also lead AAAA public relations efforts, manage major communication and education campaigns, and provide leadership and oversight of the membership, marketing, major events and publication teams.

According to the AAAA, Conway has over 20 years’ experience in senior membership and marketing roles. She has experience working in not-for-profit organisations, including The Guild Group (Pharmacy Guild of Australia) and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV), and holds a Bachelor of Arts (English and Sociology) and Associate Diploma in Business and Marketing.

“Tiffany’s experience in strategic membership and marketing roles shines through. She has the perfect mix of strategic marketing focus and consistent results in membership satisfaction and growth to take the Association forward,” said Charity.

For the Head of Operations and Strategy position, the AAAA appointed John Braden to manage operations and finances. The association said he will also work closely with the CEO to drive the strategic direction and growth of the business and assist in the development and roll out of new commercial opportunities.

Braden also has over 20 years’ experience in senior finance and commercial roles with Ford, Toyota and BMW in Australia, along with BMW in Europe. He has served on a number of company boards and holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Banking and Finance) and Associate Diploma in Business.

“With a unique mix of strategic ability and demonstrated success in the automotive sphere, John’s strong commercial background, financial acumen and strategic focus will provide a strong foundation for future growth that will strengthen the AAAA, our membership and the broader industry.” said Charity.

Mandatory Data Sharing Law Locked In For Australia

The Australian government has announced that it will introduce a mandatory data sharing law. The data sharing law will allow independent workshops access to all motor vehicle service and repair information for a price.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) says the law will provide a level playing field in the sector and allow consumers to have their vehicle safely repaired by the repairer of their choice.

“This is an incredible result for our members, who came to us with their concerns, put competitive rivalries aside and fought alongside us to have the law changed for their customers, their businesses and the wider industry,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association.

“This announcement has been a long road and is the culmination of tireless work by the AAAA team to push for government action to address this important competition issue. We have personally met with over 75 federal MPs, facilitated hundreds of workshop visits by MPs all around the country and had countless early morning and late-night discussions with ministers and other industry stakeholders.”

The announcement is also a huge moment for the AAAA who has long championed the Choice of Repairer campaign on behalf of their members and the wider industry.

“It is also an important win for consumers,” said Charity. “Our Choice of Repairer campaign has sought to increase community awareness around consumers’ right to choose their repairer and their new car warranty and servicing rights.

“This has been an industry wide effort and I would like to acknowledge the invaluable role played by automotive industry associations – Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA), Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), Australian Automobile Association (AAA), and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

“I’d like to personally thank the Assistant Treasurer Hon. Michael Sukkar for his leadership on this issue and commitment to introduce a mandatory data sharing law that will benefit small businesses in the automotive service industry as well as every Australian car owner.

“We look forward to seeing progress on an exposure draft and we will review every word to ensure that car manufacturers are not able to wriggle though any loopholes that would prevent or restrict consumer choice and ultimately harm competition.”

AAAA: Mitsubishi Pajero Recall Compromises Safety

Mitsubishi Motors Australia has issued an urgent recall on its NX-series Pajero via the Australian Competition Consumer Commission, affecting 6384 Pajero models built between 2017 and 2018.

According to Mitsubishi, “inadequate” welding strength increases the likelihood of the front driver’s side suspension lower control arm failing. If the control arm fails, the steering may not operate, increasing the chance of an accident.

Mitsubishi has advised that it will contact owners via postal mail to bring their Pajero into a Mitsubishi dealership to be repaired free of charge. However, the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) believes this recall serves as an example of how safety is being compromised for vehicle owners.

“It’s interesting to note how Mitsubishi, which is one of the least cooperative manufacturers in sharing important vehicle servicing data to independent workshops, is handling this significant and potentially dangerous vehicle manufacturing fault,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA. “We have a situation where an ACCC notice and a letter in the mailbox are the only methods undertaken by the manufacturer to ensure affected vehicles are brought in for repair quickly.

“With a mandatory data sharing scheme in place, the Mitsubishi Pajero recall would allow independent workshops servicing these vehicles to have immediate access to the VIN numbers of Pajeros affected, so owners can be informed to take their vehicle back to Mitsubishi.”

The AAAA says another example of how a mandatory data scheme would increase road user safety and benefit manufacturers is the ongoing Takata airbag recall.

“A mandatory data sharing scheme would enable all safety and recall campaigns to quickly reach a much higher percentage of affected vehicles [and] models that are being serviced by independent workshops across the country, which would enable potentially dangerous faults to be fixed sooner.”

According to the AAAA, the benefit for manufacturers comes from the ability to rectify dangerous faults in a reduced timeframe, saving dealerships and the manufacturers significant costs. For road users, less vehicles with faults results in increased safety for everyone.

“We are working closely with Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar on a mandatory data sharing scheme and we are confident a positive outcome can be achieved,” said Charity.

The AAAA has provided a list of the recalled Pajero VIN numbers here.

AAAA To Work With Joint Select Committee On Road Safety

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) says it has welcomed the formation of the government’s new Joint Select Committee on Road Safety.

The committee will inquire and report on steps that can be taken to reduce Australia’s road accident rates, trauma and deaths on the country’s roads, aiming to present an interim report by 30 March 2020 and a final report by 31 July 2020. The AAAA says it wants to engage with the committee on the role that vehicle servicing plays in road safety.

While newer vehicle designs, construction and new safety technologies are major factors in reducing crash numbers, serious injury and death on our roads, the AAAA says it’s regular maintenance and servicing that ensures vehicles continue to operate safely on the roads for years to come. With the longer-term trend of lower new car sales and consumers holding on to their cars for longer, regular servicing is more important than ever.

According to AAAA research, 30 per cent of vehicles are not receiving regular or required services, increasing the risk of component failure or other issues that directly impact vehicle safety. The cost of servicing remains a key reason behind this statistic, so ensuring servicing remains affordable and that consumers have a choice is the best way to increase the number of vehicles that are regularly serviced.

“We are eager to provide the Joint Select Committee information around affordable measures that encourage owners to have their vehicles regularly serviced and maintained, including a mandatory data sharing scheme for independent workshops,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of AAAA. “The AAAA has long championed a mandatory data sharing scheme on behalf of independent service and repair professionals across the country. Denying consumers their choice of vehicle service provider is a threat to competition and safety.”

According to the AAAA, Australia lags behind other countries in relation to data sharing, with Europe and the USA having regulations in place to encourage regular vehicle servicing and consumer choice. However, the association says it’s confident that a mandatory scheme is forthcoming, continuing to work with the government on behalf of the automotive service industry to make sure the implementation of this scheme is achieved in a timely manner.

The AAAA says it will work proactively with the Joint Select Committee to highlight the importance the vehicle service and repair industry has on road safety outcomes, and outline how the association can assist the industry in playing their role in reducing the nation’s rising road death toll.

UPDATED: Associations Express Mixed Views Over Government Mandatory Repair Information Paper

(UPDATE 13 Feb: This article has been updated with the MTA NSW’s response.)
Three automotive industry associations have expressed mixed reaction to the release of the federal government’s consultation paper on the introduction of a mandatory scheme for the sharing of vehicle service and repair information between car companies and independent repairers.

The AAAA said it welcomed the document’s release but warned that some aspects of the paper are inconsistent with the ACCC’s findings. VACC gave it a “lukewarm” reception and labelled it “weak”, while the Motor Traders’ Association of NSW “strongly welcomed” the Government’s commitment to guarantee independent repairers access to car manufacturers’ data.

“We strongly encourage the government to take onboard the full ACCC findings and recommendations relating to the attributes of a mandatory scheme, as the overriding objective of this scheme is to provide fair and open competition to promote choice and affordability for all Australian car owners,” said AAAA Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Charity.

“We are concerned about the language used throughout the consultation paper that relate to “exclusions” and “restrictions” that may be included in a mandatory code.  Of course, there will need to be safeguards in place to protect the security and integrity of vehicle related data, however vehicle security should not be used as an excuse by car companies to withhold critical information required to complete a vehicle repair or service.

“These terms were not used in the ACCC Final Report and if they are included in the final code, we have no doubt that car companies will fully exploit this by linking all required information to either security, safety or emissions, and in reality, nothing will have changed for consumers,” said Charity.

“In order for Australian consumers to be treated fairly when it comes to the scheduled servicing, maintenance and repair of their vehicles, car companies should not be able to decide who receives information based on their own definitions relating to safety, security and emissions. The ACCC’s Final Report recommended that all required technical information ‘be shared with independent repairers on commercially fair and reasonable terms, subject to appropriate safeguards to enable the sharing of environmental, safety and security-related technical information,’ and we fully support this recommendation,” he added.

The association is also concerned by the potential for manufacturers to determine the appropriate level of investment by independent workshops in order to access service and repair data. The AAAA believes this will allow vehicle manufacturers to charge exorbitant fees for information, special tools, training and equipment and is unworkable in a market of more than 70 car brands.

“We believe that after two separate government inquiries on this matter and over eight years of consultation, it is now time for the government to build on the ACCC’s findings and recommendations and implement a mandatory code as a matter of urgency,” said Charity.

VACC expressed disappointment over the paper’s lack of penalties for manufacturers that fail to comply with the directive.

“Frankly, this document is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” said VACC Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Gwilym. “If a ‘mandated code’ has no penalties for non-compliance it will not work in the real world.”

VACC wants the government to revise its paper to include significant penalties in a bid to garner largescale compliance.

“VACC has been calling for a mandated code for a long time now. We will not be satisfied until it is a genuine mandated code – this means that there are explicit penalties if manufacturers fail in their obligations to share the information for which they are obliged.”

Gwilym said the time for consultation has long since expired and that all sides of government need to get on with the job of making a mandated code a reality.

“All stakeholders know what’s expected. But relying on goodwill has simply not worked in the past. The industry needs the next federal government to mandate a code of conduct where expectations are fully explained, along with the ramifications for those OEMs who will not play fair.”

VACC said the Labor Party is on record as supporting a mandated code for the sharing of motor vehicle service and repair information, something Gwilym believes will become an election issue.

“In the lead-up to the next federal election, Australian motorists – all 15 million of them – will consider this significant consumer issue as they enter polling booths and decide on this country’s next federal government,” said Gwilym.

MTA NSW said the release of a consultation paper was a step in the right direction, and welcomed the intended creation of an advisory group which will include the association working alongside the national body, the MTAA.

“As the only NSW employer association to represent dealers, independent service providers, repairers, dismantlers/recyclers and other automotive industries, MTA NSW has worked closely over the last 24 months with MTAA to advocate to ensure any regulatory solution takes into account the needs of all automotive businesses and consumers,” said MTA NSW CEO, Stavros Yallouridis.

“We have proactively participated with the MTAA member states and territories to develop a draft code of conduct as a potential solution which has involved extensive analysis of both European and US practical experiences to ensure a pragmatic approach is achieved.

“The code of conduct must not advantage or disadvantage any service provider over another and ensure consumer choice and a level playing field for all automotive sector industry participants. If done correctly then there should be benefits for dealers, independent mechanical repairers and other repair providers,” added Yallouridis.

AAAA Innovation Labs Supporting The Future Growth Of Australian Automotive Manufacturing

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has announced the establishment of two automotive Innovation Labs based in Victoria and South Australia.

Co-funded by federal and Victorian government industry development grants, the operation of these new Innovation Labs will be led by the AAAA, with the association saying they will provide Australian automotive product designers, manufacturers and start-ups with the tools, technology, vehicles, expertise and collaborative environment required to innovate, design, test and manufacture for local and export markets.

Advanced manufacturing services including 3D scanning and printing, measuring sessions, technology transfer, Computer Aided Design and prototyping will be provided. Advanced product development and testing facilities will significantly reduce the time and cost in developing innovative new products for local and global markets.

According to AAAA Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Charity, the establishment of these Innovation Labs will grow an industry that is already punching well above its weight on the global stage.

“Australian automotive aftermarket industry manufacturers are currently producing parts, components and technology worth more than five billion dollars each year.

“Our companies are world leaders in the design and manufacture of specialty products with a technological advantage such as 4WD, high performance and motorsport components. These products are purchased on innovation, performance and features rather than on price. Our businesses have been successful because they have made significant investments in R&D and capital equipment and have a strong export focus.

“Establishing this collaborative infrastructure will position our industry for future domestic and export market growth by providing the innovators of the industry with the leading-edge technology and expertise needed to take Australian automotive industry innovations to the world, regardless of how large or small their businesses are.”

The AAAA has appointed automotive industry engineering specialist Luke Truskinger to the role of Innovation Lab Project Manager. Along with his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, the AAAA says Truskinger brings extensive local and international OEM experience to this new role and a history of supporting the Innovation Lab project, understanding the critical role that the labs will play to support the future growth of Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry.

The AAAA says it will be engaging in extensive discussions with Australia’s automotive parts and accessories industry to build on the significant work already undertaken as part of the Innovation Lab feasibility study. The next few months of the establishment phase will ensure that the equipment and services offered by the Australian Innovation Labs are closely aligned with the current and future needs of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry.

“We look forward to inviting automotive manufacturers to take advantage of the services and facilities that our Innovation Labs will offer to assist in taking their products from concept to domestic and global market success,” said Charity.

To find out more or to register your interest in the Automotive Innovation Labs, contact AAAA Innovation Lab Project Manager Luke Truskinger – [email protected].

Collision Repair Expo 2019 To Welcome Thousands Of Trade Visitors

The 2019 Collision Repair Expo (CRE 2019) will showcase the latest Australian and international innovations for local collision repairers, supported by practical exhibitor presentations, industry seminars and panel discussions.

According to the organiser, the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), the importance of the collision repair sector was reflected in the significantly high number of trade members who registered specifically for this expo in 2017. This sector of the aftermarket industry attracted almost 30 per cent of the total trade visitors to the concurrently held 2017 Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo and occupied approximately one quarter of the total exhibitor space.

Industry leading paint and equipment distributor, Sydney Automotive Paints and Equipment (SAPE), has returned as the major sponsor of the CRE 2019. The seminar programme will be strongly supported by I-CAR, who will assist in presenting an extensive line-up of industry experts and specialists who will conduct seminars. These seminars will be focused on assisting collision repair business owners to maximise their operating efficiencies and repair techniques.

Along with I-CAR, several leading collision repair industry and media organisations will also be co-locating their activities at the CRE 2019, making this three-day event an integral part of this industry sector’s growth and development.

The importance of practical displays in relation to panel repair work on exotic new metals and composite materials will be highlighted by the number of CRE 2019 exhibitors who will be performing live practical demonstrations at their stands, along with utilising the expo’s unique demonstration spray booth.

This fully functional spray booth enables every kind of surface coating product to be practically displayed, making this a popular attraction with members of the trade who are keen to witness their industry’s latest products in action. It is also a popular promotional platform for exhibitors to showcase their latest surface coating products.

“The 2019 Collision Repair Expo will enable businesses within this major industry sector to stay ahead of the latest developments, products and technical training,” said AAAA Executive Director, Stuart Charity. “This is a sector of the Australian automotive aftermarket industry that must be fully across the rapid technological advancements in products, tooling and repair processes to future proof their businesses. With practical demonstrations, a detailed industry seminar programme and a who’s who of the industry as exhibitors, the Collision Repair Expo has everything that is needed and more all under one roof.”

The speaker and seminar line up for the CRE 2019 is being finalised and will be released shortly.

For more information and free registration, details can be found at www.collisionrepair.com.au.