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AUSTRALIA’S independent repair businesses have fared very well during the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions with the industry’s body expecting solid demand through to the end of this year and into 2022.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) said that while there was “no doubt” of the direct relationship between lockdowns and demand for repair and service, “our industry has managed to stay open, albeit at various times just for emergency maintenance and repair”.

Speaking at the launch of the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo and Collision Repair Expo now set for April 7-9 next year, AAAA CEO Stuart Charity said currently all states – including those in lockdown are offering the full range of services.

But he said motorists were “holding off for as long as they can for servicing”.

“So it’s having an impact and demand is a little bit subdued,” he said.

“But then as soon as any lockdown is lifted, we get this huge spike in demand. So you can only delay your service for so long. 

Stuart Charity

“Overall, as we have indicated, I think independent repair has fared pretty well. 

“The accessories industry has gone gangbusters because people can’t go overseas. So owners are doing up their cars and getting ready for road trips.

“Even in automotive retail, consumers that are cashed up and have a bit more time on their hands. Add in the project guys and others and there’s money around for the retail industry as well.

“I think we are pretty fortunate to be in this industry in terms of the impacts of COVID. 

“We expect once we get through these lockdowns and hopefully beyond that, we’ll see really, really, really solid demand coming in for Christmas and out into the new year.”

The outlook augurs well for the AAAA’s April, 2022 Expo that has already been delayed because of the pandemic.

Since moving the expo into next year, Mr Charity said the AAAA has seen “an unprecedented level of demand from the industry to take part and support Australia’s leading aftermarket show”.

The AAAA said the expo will showcase top brands, new technologies, and bring together the best and brightest industry minds.

Mr Charity said organisers were planning to ensure the expo would be a COVID-safe zone.

“That’s the message we’re giving that we will do everything we have to do based on Department of Health requirements to make it a safe expo for visitors and exhibitors from all states,” he said.

Mr Charity said the expo had already confirmed 250 exhibitors “basically the ‘who’s who’ of the automotive industry” which was a very pleasing result given the event was still six months away.

“What is absolutely remarkable is that today we are six months from the expo and we already have 84 per cent of space allocated to exhibitors,” he said.

“We’ve had to postpone the event for 12 months yet, through this, pretty much every one of our exhibitors carried over their standard contract and their deposited payments. So our exhibitors have stuck fast with us, which we thank them for. 

“That underscores the importance of this event and how highly this event means to our industry. 

“It is the largest industry and networking event from the aftermarket industry. This year, more than any other year, we’re really focusing this on providing a window into the future of the industry.”

Mr Charity said the industry has changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 50 years.

“That pace of change is only accelerating and with changes in powertrain, the technology on vehicles, the equipment and technology involved in gearing up workshops,” he said.

Mr Charity said that one big change from previous years is that the expo won’t host any international events in 2022.

“There is still too much uncertainty about whether our borders or international borders will all be open at that time,” he said. 

“The other thing is that we were a bit concerned about bringing a whole lot of international people into the expo while managing it as a COVID-safe event.”

By Neil Dowling

AdTorque Edge