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Carwash/quick lube combos are nothing new to the carwashing industry, but they have become more commonplace over the past decade. The reason is today’s customers are now, more than ever, attracted to convenience and one-stop shopping. In light of this, the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) is reaching out to carwash owners who might be looking to add on a quick lube, and trying to bridge the gap between the two multi-profit centers. This month, the AOCA will be sponsoring the 2011 International Fast Lube Expo (iFlex), which will be held in Dallas. I recently spoke to AOCA President and CEO Pat Wirth to get an idea of what to expect at the iFlex show as well as how carwash owners and operators could benefit from adding on a quick lube.
Debra Gorgos: Please tell us all about the upcoming Expo?
Pat Wirth: The 2011 International Fast Lube Expo sponsored by the AOCA is all about “Ideas, Information & Innovation” and will take place in Dallas, Texas, from August 9 through August 12. AOCA is celebrating its 25th anniversary and has pulled out all the stops to make this convention memorable on a number of fronts. The automotive service business sector has been continually challenged with gasoline going over $4/gallon twice with a long recession in the middle. AOCA has assembled a fabulous array of speakers to overcome these challenges who will cover topics from social media advertising to ways to control your cost of goods to the latest products and technology being introduced to our industry. Our outstanding iFLEX trade show with well over 100 vendors will showcase every product, part, piece of equipment and support service needed to run a profitable business. AOCA is headquartered in Dallas so our staff has arranged for a tour of Cowboys Stadium (the eighth wonder of the world!) as well as a private rodeo at Resistol Arena. We are all very excited about this year’s Expo!
Debra Gorgos: How has the Expo evolved over the years?
Pat Wirth: AOCA’s roots began as an association comprised only of independent fast lube operators. We now represent the entire industry and have members who feature every “brand” of quick lube. We support our operators in local, state and national government affairs and the Expo will cover the hot topics facing our industry with an update from our Policy Advisor, Joanna Johnson. Over the years our trade show has developed into a “must attend” event as new services and products are rolled out giving operators the opportunity to be the first to offer them “back home” in their respective markets. It’s great to be able to be ahead of your competition.
Debra Gorgos: What can newcomers expect?
Pat Wirth: Newcomers to the industry or those thinking about getting into the industry can attend our nationally acclaimed Boot Camp. Taught by industry experts Rick Price and Howie Lowen, attendees will spend an entire day reviewing the “nuts and bolts” of the industry. In addition, newcomers will be paired with veteran operators with whom they can network. The networking even for “old” operators is something everyone looks forward to each year.
Debra Gorgos: What advice do you have for carwash owner/operators looking to add on a quick lube to their property?
Pat Wirth: About six years ago I did just the opposite — I added a carwash to my quick lube business. Successfully running a carwash business is as unique as successfully running a fast lube. I immediately joined the International Carwash Association™s (ICA) because I knew there was a whole lot I didn’t know about the carwash industry, but that they could support and help me. I also regularly attend one of the regional carwash shows to keep up on the latest information about the industry. If a carwash operator is contemplating adding a fast lube, they should join AOCA and attend our Expo and particularly the Boot Camp. It will provide a great base from which to begin the process.
Debra Gorgos: What are some of the things people might not know about the AOCA?
Pat Wirth: Steve Hurt, publisher of National Oil and Lube News, started our organization. It was initially called NAIL, National Association of Independent Lubes, and has evolved into the one and only association representing the entire fast lube industry. We are very proud to have members from every quick lube group as well as independents. Over the past two decades AOCA has developed outstanding training programs that are continuously updated. They include management level courses and technician courses.
Our Government Affairs committee is very active and sends representatives to Capitol Hill whenever necessary to ensure that the needs of our members are heard. We frequently partner with other associations when there are overlapping issues. Last year AOCA together with AAIA (Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) and TIA (Tire Industry Association) met with the Federal Trade Commission after Honda released a Position Statement that implied that motorists had to go back to the dealer to maintain their new car warranties. Six weeks after that meeting the FTC issued a Consumer Alert stating that one did not have to go back to the dealer to maintain the warranty! That’s what a trade association is all about — educating, protecting and supporting the industry.