Labor Shortage, Right to Repair in Focus at AAPEX Buyer Panel – (AMN)

December 21, 2021 by No Comments

The events of the past year and a half or so have given us plenty to talk about in the automotive aftermarket, and there was no shortage of conversation points for the Nov. 2 buyer panel that kicked off AAPEX in Las Vegas.

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Moderator Karyn Schoenbart, CEO of The NPD Group, opened the keynote panel by asking the participants – a who’s who of executives from aftermarket retailers and warehouse distributors – to reflect on what it meant to gather in person at AAPEX for the first time since 2019. The consensus was that the face-to-face interaction was a welcome departure from the endless video-conference calls of the pandemic.

The conversation then pivoted to leadership lessons learned from the pandemic.

Sue Godshalk

“One of the first things that I learned is that you can never be complacent in your leadership role,” said Sue Godschalk, president of Federated Auto Parts. “Things are constantly changing, and you have to be able to adapt to those changes – and you have to develop your team to be able to adapt as well.

“Throughout the whole pandemic, the first priority for us was to maintain the health and well-being of our employees. And as a leader, you not only have to be inspirational, but you also have to be compassionate. At the same time, you have to continue to push for performance.”

AutoZone CEO Bill Rhodes said he learned two key lessons: “the importance of courage, and making sure you’re making decisions that align with your values.” He noted that in March 2020, AutoZone decided to give its employees two extra weeks of vacation.

“That was an $80 million decision that we made in 48 hours,” Rhodes said. “But we made it align with our values, and frankly it was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had of our leadership team for making a decision like that.”

Bill Rhodes

Right to Repair

Prior to the keynote panel, Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, and Paul McCarthy, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), presented the annual “State of the Aftermarket” – much of which focused on the push for federal Right to Repair legislation.

Despite surveys indicating that consumers overwhelmingly support the notion of being able to choose where they take their vehicles for repair and maintenance, Schoenbart noted that there are indications that Right to Repair isn’t resonating with technicians and others on the front lines of the aftermarket. How, then, can the aftermarket get this important message to the shop floor?

Kevin Herron, president and COO of Genuine Parts Co.’s U.S. Automotive Parts Group, summed it up with “education and support.”

“It’s not just an automotive issue,” Herron added. “It exists in the medical industry; it exists in the agricultural business. There are other industries that are going through this. And we need to educate all the way through the organization what Right to Repair is and why it’s so critical to the aftermarket going forward.”

Kevin Herron

Herron and other leaders on the stage emphasized that winning the Right to Repair battle will require an industrywide effort. At a grassroots level, they suggested involving co-workers, family and friends in the fight; supporting political action committees; and developing relationships with your representatives in Congress.

There’s also an ongoing need to provide financial …….



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