“There is no arguing we are living in interesting, if not unprecedented, times,” writes Steve Sharp
There is no arguing we are living in interesting, if not unprecedented, times. Supply chain issues, record-high fuel prices, and inflation concerns have many of us scratching our heads, wondering what the future has in store. This said, there are positive indicators for the automotive aftermarket.
The current chip shortage that inhibits new car production could easily become a tailwind for the aftermarket as car owners have little choice but to keep their current vehicles for more extended periods, driving the average of vehicles in operation to even higher levels than we see today.
We should never forget that we are participants in an amazingly resilient industry. Even during the great recession and the pandemic, our industry did not suffer as significantly, or for as long of a period, as other industries. One must look long and hard to find a year where the industry did not generate positive growth. Year after year, our industry meets the challenges presented by economic headwinds and generates positive results for repair shops, distributors, manufacturers, and investors. It is one of the primary reasons the industry attracts a sizeable amount of merger and acquisition activity; it’s a stable industry.
While nobody can predict the future, I believe there is one thing we can all use as a beacon to guide us through these challenging times: meeting customers’ needs. Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, or repair shop, the fundamental action that sees us through economic turbulence is our ability to understand and provide solutions to our customers.
I have always felt that one of the greatest strengths of our industry is that a motor vehicle either needs a service or repair or it doesn’t. The car itself does not know, or care for that matter, about the economy. This is not to say that economy does not impact the decision-making process of the vehicle owner. Nor does it mean that a tough economy does not impact certain types of accessories, but at the end of the day, if a car needs a water pump, it needs a water pump, regardless of the economic climate. Car owners will continue to put miles on their vehicles by commuting to work and taking their kids to school, and this usage will turn into repairs and maintenance. The trick is understanding how economic realities impact customers’ decisions and being ready when an opportunity comes our way.
Despite the recent questions about our economy, we are members of an industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, ranks as one of the top employment industries, and in its way, keeps our economy moving in a positive direction. Whether you call it getting back to basics or focusing on the constant, the current economic conditions will present another opportunity for the industry to shine. Just as it always does.
Steve Sharp’s career began in his father’s repair shop in 1967 and then moved to the parts side of the industry in 1973. For the last 48 years, Sharp has worked exclusively in the replacement parts segment of the automotive aftermarket. In 1988, Sharp began what would turn out to be a 33-year career with WORLDWIDE Trading Company/ WORLDPAC, from which he retired in 2021. He is currently studying for his master’s degree. Sharp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org