Last week (Thursday 15 December) saw us attend our very first Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) Conference since becoming proud members of the federation back in September.  Formed in 1930, the IAAF exists purely to represent the needs and requirements of its members and to co-ordinate its shared strengths to promote the independent automotive aftermarket as a credible alternative for vehicle service and repair.

The 2016 conference took place at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham and was hosted by John Sergeant, the renowned political journalist and star of Strictly Come Dancing.  Promoting the theme of ‘Survive and Thrive – Post Brexit’ the conference focused on the effects of the EU Referendum vote on the independent automotive aftermarket and how any threats might be combatted in the near future!

Wendy Williamson, chief executive, of the IAAF kicked off the conference with the message that the independent aftermarket must adapt and be able to cope with new technologies in order to succeed in the future.  Wendy commented that: “With our industry becoming increasingly technologically driven, it is vital that we embrace this form of growth and maintain our relevance within the automotive sphere.”  Next up was Niranjan Thiyagarajan from Frost & Sullivan who gave an excellent summary of the UK aftermarket in numbers and the future of the aftermarket based on key findings from their recent report ‘The Importance of the UK Aftermarket‘.  We would encourage readers to download a copy of the report which amongst other things highlights that:

  • The UK aftermarket is worth £21.1bn and experiences 3% growth per year on average
  • The UK independent aftermarket accounts for 64% of this figure and is expected to grow to 71% by 2020
  • 30 million cars are supported each year across 42,544 locations with the average consumer spend on a car being £695.39 per year
  • The average UK vehicle age is 7.8 years and this is predicted to grow to 8.1 years by 2020
  • 55% of cars sold in the UK are via lease or fleet
  • The UK has the strongest independent sector in Europe

Next up was Alison Martin of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who talked about the UK’s approach to vehicle safety and recalls in what is becoming an increasingly regulated aftermarket.  Mike Smallbone of the IAAF discussed the challenge of educating both the aftermarket and the public on Right2Choose, it’s frightening to think that over 72% of consumers are completely unaware that they don’t have to use franchised dealers for servicing and that going elsewhere will not invalidate their  warranty!  Iain O’Brien of Triple Wood Associates outlined the threats to the industry posed by cyber-crime and offered some key tips for protection.  Julian Lloyd from ProVQ explained the Apprenticeship Levy and upcoming opportunities for the aftermarket, where in a digital economy, skills and capability of technicians is going to be vital in the future and that apprentices sit firmly at its centre!  Neil Pattermore from FIGIEFA described the current threats affecting the automotive aftermarket both here in the UK and Europe before Alexander Haid of TecAlliance rounded off the day by emphasising the importance of embracing connectivity and the automotive digital revolution!

The agenda proved particularly relevant and indeed timely in what has been a turbulent and uncertain six months for the automotive industry since the historic vote to leave the EU and which has already seen automotive parts distributor, Andrew Page enter administration before subsequently being sold to LKQ Corporation (owners of Euro Car Parts); Coventry-based car parts manufacturer, Covpress enter administration following significant and urgent funding issues; and Nissan threaten to scrap new investment at their Sunderland manufacturing plant, before being convinced by the government to stay in the UK with a promise of no tariffs or extra bureaucratic burdens on the car industry after Brexit.

Britain’s automotive industry has been one of the ‘star performers’ of the UK economy in recent years, and is seen as having benefited from EU membership, for example in terms of access to the single market and hiring skilled staff from Europe.  In order for the independent aftermarket to survive and thrive post Brexit, some of the key themes that came out of the conference were around the importance of adapting to digital innovation, showcasing the competence, capability and compliance of technicians, enhancing customer service and delivering cost effective solutions to customers.

The conference provided real insight into what the future holds for the independent automotive aftermarket in a post Brexit Britain and why now is the time for the aftermarket to start embracing change!

In addition to an excellent agenda, the conference also proved valuable to us in a networking capacity and it was great to catch up with some of our good friends at the federation including the likes of Wendy Williamson and Mike Smallbone as well and its soon to be new President Andy Savva – congratulations Andy and we wish you all the very best in your new role.  It was also a great opportunity to develop new relationships with a whole host of other members including the likes of AutoTech RecruitAuto Car PartsGIPABoswell Insurance, Auto Supplies and more!

Finally, we just wanted to take the opportunity to wish all our readers a wonderful Christmas and prosperous New Year with your respective family and friends and to say thanks for all your support throughout 2016.  Look out for more news and insights from the team at Smart Garage Solutions in the New Year!