IAAF gears up for change at Annual Conference

‘Technology represents both opportunity and threat to evolving automotive aftermarket’

The IAAF Conference 2019 has highlighted the massive technology-led transformation in the global automotive industry and how every business in the independent aftermarket can take full advantage.

Kicking off the sold-out conference – sponsored by PR company Impression Communications and held at DoubleTree by Hilton in Milton Keynes – Wendy Williamson, chief executive of IAAF highlighted how technology has dominated the topics tackled by the Federation in 2019, from the Counterfeit Parts Campaign to Cyber Security. She also outlined the work FIGIEFA was doing in securing fair digitialisation opportunities along with other technology led work on Extended Vehicle and SERMI.

“Vehicles are like computers on wheels and we are seeing them becoming increasingly more connected and sophisticated,” Williamson said. “As an industry, we need to steer the supply chain in the right direction to ensure we’re on track to tackle the challenges we face head on and ensure we are equipped with the tools and knowhow to be able to continue to service and maintain the vehicles of tomorrow.”

Williamson stressed the importance of being able to compete fairly and safely in an open market, while ensuring the motorist continues to have the right to choose where they take their vehicle.

With technology driving the conference, delegates were able to post questions via the IAAF-themed Sli.do app. With more than 50 questions posed throughout the day, the app proved a very effective platform for audience participation and dialogue.

Hayley Pells from Avia Garage stepped up to look at how independent garages are ‘coping’ with technological changes, particularly given the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles. Pells said there was still time to prepare for these vehicles but pushed home the need for greater engagement with industry training, recognising that many technicians do not have the correct qualifications and are therefore not in a position to service the latest vehicles on the road.

She also examined the changing face of the independent garage with technology driving new services such as wheel alignment and ADAS.

Sticking with the theme of innovation and change, Andy Hamilton, CEO of Euro Car Parts, explored the digital disruption that is causing the aftermarket to constantly evolve. Stating that 46% of cars are turned away from garages due to being unable to diagnose faults, Hamilton joined Pells in calling on the industry to expand its skillset so it can adapt to the changing needs of motorists and to support garages more, in order to preserve the independent aftermarket.

The message was then reinforced by the next speaker, Dean Lander from Thatcham, who delivered an engaging talk on the history and growth of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), again reiterating the need for garages to have greater access to ever-changing technology in order to avoid handing over all power to vehicle manufacturers.

Lander urged the industry to recognise that autonomous vehicles are already a reality and that change is inevitable. With this in mind, he emphasised how crucial it is that staff are trained properly and legislation is put in place to protect all parties.

Taking a more light-hearted tone, keynote speaker, Richard Noble, captivated attendees with his personal story of how he fulfilled his life-long mission to build the world’s first supersonic car, while going on to break the land-speed record.

In doing so, Noble utilised the platform he’d created to set up the largest STEM programme in the UK, directly targeting the next generation and engaging with more than 129,000 schoolchildren.

Mike Smallbone, Head of Membership Development, then provided a full round-up of the Federation’s activity throughout the year, highlighting IAAF’s commitment to addressing the issues with initiatives such as Your Car – Your Choice. The pilot project in Chesterfield was instrumental in the automotive aftermarket winning business from main dealers, as independent garages felt more confident in the greater use of OE-quality parts.

Neil Barlow and Emma-Jane Morris from DVSA outlined the purpose of the market surveillance unit (MSU) and their activities in the automotive aftermarket around vehicle emissions, emissions control and tyres. They re-iterated their determination to work with the industry to educate companies and clarify the rules.

Before the day came to a close, attendees were left with food for thought as Neil Pattemore from FIGIEFA, the industry’s European federation and political representative, spoke of the immediate threats affecting the automotive aftermarket, such as protecting Block Exemption, the risks surrounding the extended vehicle and the importance of cyber security.

Wendy Williamson concluded: “It’s been a great day of education and innovation, and it’s now clearer than ever that as an industry, we need to remain firmly in the fast lane when it comes to moving towards an inevitably digital future.

“It’s a challenging but also exciting time to be in the aftermarket, and we will need to all work together to ensure we can not only adapt to the challenges that we face, but also maximise the enormous potential in front of us. However, if we’re to continue to thrive, the time for change is now.”

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