From The CEO - August - 2018


Over the past forty years, I’ve seen a lot of changes to our industry. In many cases, those changes left people saying, “What’s happening to this industry?” Some seemed pretty minor when compared to the scheme of things, while others seemed insurmountable: “What are we going to do?”

The earliest calamity I can recall is when front-wheel-drive vehicles started showing up at shops. Some shops didn’t have any lifts, or if they did, they were single-post versions that made working on these cars a challenge.

Then came lockup torque converters, followed by computer controls. Some people just disconnected these systems and let ’em go. We can look back at these challenges and it seems kind of silly today to think of them as being a problem, but there were shops that closed up over them.

When remans hit the scene, it was a huge problem for some shops, and the industry as a whole was uncertain what to do or how to get through it. We got through that too, and in doing so, discovered that, in many cases, reman companies could be our greatest ally.

Finding qualified technicians is still a problem for many shop owners, yet some have figured out a way to include recruitment and training as a regular part of their business activities. Not to mention that ATRA is just weeks away from unveiling a training platform that’ll bring the training you need for maintaining your staff right to your fingertips.

It seems as though, once we get a handle on one crisis, another one rears its ugly head just to knock us down again. A new situation has begun to show up in the form of tariffs on products made in China. They started on July 6th, and we began hearing from suppliers almost immediately.

Businesses are being faced with thousands of dollars in additional fees that they hadn’t planned for. These are real losses, leaving industries wondering, “What are we going to do?”

I’ve had several businesses contact me in the last few weeks to describe their surprises as they received their orders from overseas; suddenly the cost of an order went from $17,000 to $22,000; a pretty substantial increase that they weren’t expecting.

Of course, the costs of these tariffs will find their way back to the consumer and it’s uncertain where it’ll end and its net impact on this and other industries.

This is serious and I’m not making light of it when I say, “We don’t know the full story or where this’ll end.” I, like many others, tend to be a little skeptical about what I hear in the news and usually find that, weeks after a story hits, there’s new information that puts it into perspective, or alters my original opinion.

Think this type of intentional persuasion by our media is new? Think again. Almost 60 years ago, Daniel J. Boorstin coined the term pseudo event. It essentially means that media organizations often sit on a story until it conveniently serves a purpose, or they’ll leave important information out of a story to advance a narrative.

Of course, there’s also the fact that we tend to assume results long before they take place. In some cases that’s pretty easy to do; in others, it becomes more about predicting the future. I don’t know about you, but I’m good at seeing what’s happening now. Telling you about tomorrow? That’s a little outside of my bailiwick.

One thing I can promise you: ATRA will be watching what happens with these tariffs very closely. We’ll be looking for changes that’ll affect you and your business, and working to come up with ways to help you deal with them profitably. That’s been our job for over 60 years now, and it’s one we take very seriously.

I’m not a big fan of tariffs. Their impact is real and people are feeling the pinch. I have no idea where this’ll lead but I know one thing for sure: This industry always finds a way through hardships.

And if you have some thoughts that will help us all deal with the changing financial profile of our industry, I want to hear from you. Let us know what you think, and share your ideas to help us build a brighter future. Because that’s been ATRA’s goal since its inception, and it’s one we’ll continue to work on in the days and years ahead.