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Aftermarket Expo preparations hot up

Registrations, exhibitor numbers expected to yield biggest, most advanced AAAE yet

19 Jan 2022

THE Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo (AAAE) – scheduled to take place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 7 to 9 April, co-hosted with the Collision Repair Expo – is shaping up to be the largest and most advanced event yet, based on attendee registrations and exhibitor bookings.


Speaking to GoAuto ahead of the April event, AAAE organiser and Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) CEO Stuart Charity said numerous initiatives would further the value proposition for exhibitors and attendees alike, and that interest in the Expo, which had been on hiatus for three years, was nearing capacity.


“Initially things looked as though they may slide, but we’ve had a lot of orders come through in the last few weeks of 2021. I’m pleased to report that we’re at 97 per cent capacity,” Mr Charity explained.


“We’re ahead of where we were from a registration point of view compared with the same time out from the show three years ago. So, I think we’ll sell out within the next couple of weeks.”


The only exhibition to showcase Australia’s $25-billion aftermarket industry, this year’s AAAE theme of “The Workshop of the Future is Here” will showcase the latest vehicle repair and servicing equipment, parts, tools and accessories with new technology and trends from hundreds of the Australia’s leading automotive companies, some of which will debut as-yet-unreleased products.


Mr Charity said the rapidly changing Australian car parc meant this year’s Expo would exhibit numerous technologies previously unseen by AAAA members, including workshop management systems and repair techniques, as well as diagnostic and tooling equipment aimed at electrified and low- and zero-emissions vehicles.


“The automotive industry is advancing at breakneck speed, and three years between Expos is a long time,” Mr Charity said.


“There’s a real appetite to get the industry back together under the one roof – especially from a networking and connection standpoint – as there have been a lot of structural changes going on in the industry since the last time we all got together.


“There has been a big shift toward EVs and other low- and zero-emissions vehicles. A lot of people in the aftermarket are keen to understand the opportunities as well as any potential threats these new technologies might pose. 


“More than that, I think a lot of people want accurate information around projected timelines in terms of the ramping up of electrified vehicle sales, and what they will mean for the Australian car parc overall,” he added.


Mr Charity said he was aware of concerns relating to electrified vehicle technology and the increasing complexity of driver assistance systems within the industry and had sought the assistance of independent experts to guide AAAA members through these rapidly changing times.


“There’s a lot of misinformation flying around that says electrified vehicles will essentially destroy the aftermarket repair network, or that they don’t need servicing. But that’s not true,” he said. 


“There’s a lot of different service tasks that need to be conducted, there are new ways of setting up the workshop, there are new equipment and new training methodologies that need to be focused on, and that’s why part of what the Expo aims to achieve is educating the industry on those issues.


“We’ll do it through free seminars, and through our Workshop of the Future feature. It will be a centrepiece of the show. It will basically talk about the end-to-end customer experience of a workshop in four years’ time. What real experts think is going to be required to maintain and repair vehicles that are being sold now and in the very near future. 


“They’ll discuss management systems, the online customer experience, some of the technologies we’re already beginning to see in vehicles, the kind of skills and capabilities that workshops will need, and how to structure their workforce and workshops moving forward.


“There will also be a lot of focus on advanced driver-assistance systems, recalibration technology and so on. It’s all interactive, there’ll be a Q&A at the end of each seminar."


On the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Charity said Expo organisers were working hard to ensure the event would follow the latest health advice and that every precaution would be taken to keep exhibitors and attendees as safe as possible.


“Obviously, we will continue to monitor the situation and seek the latest health advice. We're not going to run it if we determine that is unsafe in any way,” Mr Charity emphasised.


“We’ll be making sure that we manage seminar numbers carefully and keep an eye on how people assemble to make sure the event is as COVID safe as it can be. We think it will be a major feature,” he said.

“Besides that, I don't think that we can get the sort of numbers to make the Expo all that it needs to be if there was another lockdown. But I can say we’re working very hard behind the scenes to make sure the Expo is as safe as it can possibly be, and I know it will come together to be our best event yet.”


In addition to presenting the latest in automotive service and repair technologies, aftermarket parts and equipment, business improvement seminars, and advanced vehicle repair techniques, Mr Charity said the 2022 Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo would also include a new 4WD Innovation Zone, which aims to showcase the many innovations and products available to the country’s booming four-wheel-drive sector.


He said the fast-growing recreational four-wheel drive market meant the inclusion of a trade-only, business- to-business segment within the Expo was critical to those companies involved in four-wheel-drive modification, tuning, and accessory sales. He added that he expected the 4WD Innovation Zone to be well received by exhibitors and visitors alike.


“The off-road and four-wheel-drive sector is a huge part of the industry and we’re excited to have all the major players in the sector attending the Expo,” he said, adding that consumer-based 4x4 and caravan-camping shows often didn’t allow the focus and networking opportunities they required with other businesses. 


“The reason we haven’t added this in the past was that there were so many 4x4 and caravan-camping shows that we were of the view that the segment was almost over-catered for. But the big difference here, and where we’ve positioned the 4WD Innovation Zone, is about targeting the trade and fleet markets.


“So, there’s a lot of mechanical repairers and parts resellers and what have you that are distributing, reselling and fitting four-wheel drive parts and accessories to vehicles around the country. But also, the fleet market for four-wheel-drive accessories is massive – especially when you consider corporate fleets with hundreds and in some cases thousands of vehicles that need accessorisation.


“It’s a high market for the four-wheel drive industry and that where we’ve targeted the 4WD Innovation Zone. We’ve partnered with the Australasian Fleet Managers Association and that means all the major fleet managers will be running events at the Expo and inviting their members along.


“We’re also aiming this at the trade market, whether that’s four-wheel drive accessories and/or fitment. That gives the exhibitors the opportunity to exhibit their latest products and equipment, and really focus on that B2B audience,” Mr Charity concluded.


The Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo and Collision Repair Expo is expected to welcome over 10,000 visitors from across the country and will be held at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre from 7 to 9 April. 


More information is available at autoaftermarketexpo.com.au

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