As U.S. emissions rules for trucks change this year and sales taper off from the strong 2006 pace, truck dealers can look to the aftermarket for new growth opportunities, said George Grask, chairman of the American Truck Dealers (ATD),
a division of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).
"The trucking industry is growing, and more trucks equal more opportunities in the aftermarket," said Grask, speaking at the ATD Convention & Exposition in San Diego last week, as he began his second of a two-year term as chairman.
Grask said that trucking tonnage increased in 2006 and will rise another 31 percent over the next 10 years, citing American Trucking Associations research, and this will create aftermarket opportunities.
Grask also said that dealers can position themselves well for the year ahead and beyond by focusing on improved customer service, and asked truck manufacturers to help in that effort by reimbursing warranty work.
"We must to continue to improve the service experience, but we can't do that and ask truck dealers to keep absorbing the costs," he said. "Dealers are making investments necessary in facilities - technology, tooling and training - to properly service our customers today and tomorrow. And dealers deserve to be reimbursed adequately for warranty work."
Grask said the industry is making progress in addressing one of the industry's most important challenges - the shortage of qualified technicians - by tapping the expertise and resources of such organizations as Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) and NADA's Dealer Academy.
He noted that a "virtual classroom" model for AYES designed for the truck business is expected to pilot this year and launch in 2008. It will provide more truck dealers and students an opportunity to participate in career awareness programs online, in addition to "hands-on" dealership-based programs.
Grask said ATD is also taking steps to enhance dealer education. Among them is a new partnership with Babson College to provide management and leadership training for dealers. A curriculum is in development and the program is slated to start next year.
Founded in 1970, the ATD division of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is the only national organization representing dealers selling new medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The more than 2,400 members of ATD receive full association services from NADA.