“Tomorrow’s auto repair shop will serve the youngest consumers with the oldest cars, and these consumers will have access to the most information with the least amount of context,” Tyler Reeves of Interstate Batteries said as he opened the Nov. 2 “Future of the Shop” keynote session at AAPEX 2017.
Reeves explained that millennials – America’s largest living generation – are driving vehicles that are eight to 11 years old, in 83 makes and 1,700 models. By contrast, when baby boomers were the largest generation, they drove vehicles in the five- to seven-year-old range, in 47 makes and 485 models.
In addition, 70 percent of consumers today believe they can find everything on the internet.
“This means shops and suppliers have the opportunity to lean in, listen, clarify and educate to effectively build loyalty with these customers,” said Reeves. “Technicians will be considered super users of devices and services to help serve customers.”
With so much technology coming at shops, Reeves and panelist Chris Cloutier of Golden Rule Auto Care suggested automotive service professionals embrace technology by hiring smart people, learning from other industries and trying new things. “As important, start educating yourself about technology,” said Cloutier.
One of the biggest problems confronting shops is finding the time for training, Cloutier said. He encouraged audience members to create a training culture and to make sure they are trained as leaders.
Chris Blanchette of Bridgestone said the declining population of technicians, declining enrollment in the trade and technicians leaving the industry present significant challenges.
“The technician of tomorrow is not currently in the shop or bay. They are somewhere else with a spark for automotive,” said Blanchette. “We are a high-tech industry, and a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education feeds right into that, even if it means looking at 13-, 14- and 15 year-olds enrolled in these programs as our future technicians.” He added that curiosity, ethics, drive, attitude and aptitude are important when hiring, in addition to skills.
Moderator Scott Shriber, publisher of Counterman magazine, emphasized the need to focus more on vehicle data access and control as it relates to telematics and connected vehicles. Reeves acknowledged that data is a critical item, and the industry needs to elevate the discussion.
Blanchette added, “Everyone in this room needs to get involved in the data discussion. The consumer has a direct impact if we don’t figure this out.”
The Nov. 2 keynote session, entitled “Grease, Code and Customers: You’re Entirely Right About All the Wrong Stuff,” was provided to help automotive service professionals prepare for the future. The two additional keynote sessions at AAPEX 2017 addressed the future of the vehicle and the future of the buyer.
AAPEX 2017 featured more than 2,200 exhibiting companies and more than 50 AAPEXedu sessions. Approximately 158,000 automotive aftermarket professionals from more than 140 countries were in Las Vegas during AAPEX and the SEMA Show.