government affairs blog

Celebrating World Trade Month With a Trade Mission To Latin America

Posted by Andres Castrillon on May 19, 2014

The month of May is widely celebrated across the United States as “World Trade Month.” It is appropriate then that as you read this post the Auto Care Association is participating in Trade Winds – the Americas Business Development Conference and Trade Mission, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The 2014 Trade Winds program includes an Americas-focused business forum consisting of regional and industry specific conference sessions as well as pre-arranged consultations with U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Senior Officers representing commercial markets throughout the region. Auto Care Association executives are participating in mission stops to Panama and Colombia. 

The Auto Care Association’s Executive Committee has identified Latin America as a priority export region for its membership. By participating in this trade mission, Auto Care Association executives will:  

  • Network with the regions’ leading industry and government officials and experienced U.S. and global companies;
  • Learn how to help Auto Care Association members overcome barriers in the Americas; and,
  • Meet one-on-one with top business experts from the U.S. Embassies and Consulates to educate them about our industry and work with them to identify opportunities and market entry strategies.

With an increasing number of Free Trade Agreements having entered into force between the United States and Central/South American countries in the past few years, trade between the U.S. and Latin America is booming. Latin American countries now constitute some of the largest markets for U.S. exports. For example, in 2012, Colombia was the third largest market in Latin America and 22nd largest market globally. Additionally, the five countries being visited during the Trade Winds mission (Colombia, Peru, Chile, Panama and Ecuador) account for approximately U.S. $60 billion worth of exports of a wide range of products from the United States. These are also strong export markets when looking exclusively at auto parts, with Chile alone accounting for U.S. $280 million in exports in 2013.  

Colombia, Peru and Chile are some of the fastest growing economies in the region, integrating well within the global economy by opening up their markets to many countries and maintaining a stable political and business environment. U.S. products enjoy a high level of acceptance in these countries and the U.S. has the dominant share of imports. According to projections, continued growth and investment in these countries is unlimited.  

We want to position Auto Care Association members to fully maximize their advantages and identify opportunities in this promising region. This is why, in addition to participating in Trade Winds, we have organized an Auto Care Pavilion to the upcoming Latin Auto Parts Expo, July 9-11, 2014, in Panama City, Panama. Forty members will exhibit in our pavilion and participate in networking and education sessions with key automotive contacts from throughout the region.     

Members interested in learning more about the association’s international initiatives or the Latin Expo should contact Andres Castrillon at or by phone at 301-654-6664.

Keywords: Trade

Who is Really in Control of your Vehicle?

Posted by Aaron Lowe on May 12, 2014
In late April, the Senate Transportation Committee in California voted not to approve legislation that sought to provide consumers with clear notice that their vehicle had an embedded telematics system and that it was transmitting information to the vehicle manufacturer. The bill further sought to provide car owners with the ability to direct information transmitted by the telematics system to entities other than the vehicle manufacturer. The vote in the committee (three yes, one no and seven not voting) reflects not so much opposition to the issue of car owner privacy or competition in the auto care industry, but more to the fact that few legislators really understand the issue. Unfortunately, the absence of awareness of the impact of telematics both on car owners and competition is not confined to just legislators. Most car owners and likely even many in the auto care industry are unaware that vehicles are increasingly becoming equipped with telematics systems and what kind of information is actually transmitted to the vehicle manufacturers through these systems.

The ability for car companies to constantly tap into the vehicle’s on-board computers will provide a treasure trove of information regarding how a vehicle is driven, mileage, location, diagnostic fault codes and if it has been in an accident -- all in real time. Armed with this information, the car company and their franchised dealers will have the ability to develop more accurate models that predict possible component failures, improve and expand customer services, implement more targeted marketing campaigns, develop more efficient supply chain systems and more quickly respond to roadside emergencies, to name just a few. While independent auto care facilities could also benefit from access to this data, currently the car companies control access to the embedded telematics system, meaning they have a significant amount of power to determine who benefits and who does not benefit from telematics.

Some vehicle manufacturers realize that the more service they can provide to their customers will make their vehicle more desirable to potential customers. These manufacturers have provided “kits” to companies looking to build an “app” for the vehicle. The kits provide information on the vehicle’s telematics system such that an independent company could integrate their app into the embedded telematics system. This initiative is pretty smart for those manufacturers, but it is important to remember that the car company still maintains control of who can obtain the kit and who is approved to provide an app for their vehicles.

The bottom line in this debate is control -- should it be the car company or the car owner? In my opinion and that of the Auto Care Association, it is the car owner that should decide where their data is sent. However, this is easier said than done. At the current time there is really no technical method for a car owner to determine where data off their system can be sent. Working with a task force that is comprised of a host of trade groups and companies, the Auto Care Association is attempting to address the technical barriers to open access to embedded telematics. However, this is not easy task and there are some significant challenges including how to protect certain safety-related vehicle systems that, if hacked, could pose a danger to the motorist. Further, once a standardized interface is developed, the car companies are going to need to adopt the standard in order for it to be effective. It is unclear at the present time how likely it will be that car companies will cede full control of their systems.

This all brings me back to the vote in California. While the effort by AAA of northern and southern California has certain raised the profile of this issue, more needs to be done to educate car owners and legislators on this important issue. Second, it is important that the industry, hopefully that includes the car companies and the auto care industry, cooperatively develops a standard by which non-car company entities can obtain access to a vehicle’s embedded telematics system with the permission of the car owner. Once this standard is developed then it will be up to the car companies as to whether they will adopt the standard. While it is possible that control of access to data sent via telematics systems will become a legislative issue, pitting consumers and the auto care industry against the car companies and the dealers (sound familiar?), I hope that the car companies will see the writing on the wall and work toward ensuring that their customers have control of the data being sent by their system and the right to determine if and where that data is sent.

Keywords: Telematics

A New Report, a New Name, an Old Story

Posted by Aaron Lowe on May 05, 2014

Welcome to the new edition of the Capital Report, now the Auto Care Association Capital Report. While the look of the report has changed (we hope for the better), we aim to continue to bring you all of the news relevant to the auto care industry from both Washington, D.C. and state capitals around the country. Let us know if you like our new format, or if you have any suggestions on we can improve this publication.

As I said a few months ago when the new name change was announced, the government affairs department is excited about the new rebranding effort, which we hope will better define our industry for lawmakers and regulators. In fact, the newly-named Auto Care Association was the subject of full page ads in Roll Call newspaper, one of the most read periodicals on Capitol Hill. The ads seek to show how our industry is important to consumers by ensuring their mobility.

Highlighting for legislators the connection between the auto care industry and consumers is important, because few in Washington understand how important the auto care industry is to the ability of Americans attempting to get from point A to point B, whether that is home to school, home to work or home to the grocery store. In fact, each trip is made possible because hundreds of thousands of shops, employing highly trained technicians, along with many more do-it-yourselfers work to ensure that the vehicle can make the trip safety and efficiently.

In reality, while our name has changed, the industry has not. Shops, using affordable quality parts, continue to provide repair and maintenance to car owners, often able to have the car back on the road the same day. Americans have come to expect this type of service from independents, but likely never think about how this happens or appreciate the effort that is required to help make it happen. Our hope is that the new name and the messages behind it will raise their awareness and therefore ensure that they will take it to heart as they consider legislation that could either help or hurt the auto care industry.

So as you view the new Capital Report and see our new logo, we hope you will join us in promoting the new name and the story behind it, both to your customers and hopefully to elected officials and regulators as well. There is no doubt it is going to take a village to make this happen. Let us know if we can provide any help along the way.

Keywords: Congress, Lobbying