Auto Glass Week is in full swing in San Antonio, with participants packing the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Industry professionals started the morning by hitting the meeting halls for a variety of educational seminars.
Wednesday’s seminars began with Nick St. Denis, director of research for Key Media & Research, addressing the state of the auto glass market. While 2021 saw a recovery from COVID-19, thanks to a return of consumer sentiment and stimulus incentives, inflationary pressures have caught up.
That means new vehicle production and new vehicle sales are both down, resulting in an increase in aftermarket demand. St. Denis says commuter travel is recovering with respect to miles driven, though some companies returning to the office offer hybrid options.
Leisure travel is also making a comeback but inflation could limit its recovery in the long term. St. Denis says less prominent increases in miles driven and subsequent impacts on the auto glass market can be offset by additional offerings, such as ADAS calibration.
“One in five vehicles currently on the road has at least one ADAS feature,” he says. “That’s dramatically increasing over time.”
Frank Terlep, CEO of Auto Techcelerators, discussed disruptions in the auto and vehicle industry during the “Industry and Vehicle Disruption: Opportunity or Threat” session. According to Terlep, disruption is led by overconfidence, a sudden collapse and ongoing decline. Disruption is an opportunity or a business killer for companies.
“The chances of you ever recovering is practically nil,” Terlep said
Terlep covered six industry and vehicle disruptions including new vehicle technology, connected cars/big data, ADAS services and collaborations, consolidation, insure tech and artificial intelligence.
Rapid advances in new technology mean that manufacturers will be able to incorporate more glass throughout the vehicle, such as in windshields. And they can embed more technology within windows, which allows for more opportunities for expansion. The Tesla Model X is a perfect example of a vehicle with an all-glass panoramic windshield that is embedded with numerous sensors.
Sensors and technology in glass do not always translate well, however. Terlep said that while heads-up displays are becoming more common, they will cause windshield replacements to increase in difficulty.
Vehicle cybersecurity has also disrupted the auto industry, Terlep said. Hackers are capable of remotely hacking into a vehicle and can take over the infotainment system, the air conditioning system and even control driving functions.
“Imagine if someone in North Korea can hack into all the Chryslers on the road and kill them,” Terlep said.
Additionally, today’s vehicles are generating more data than at any point in history, and it’s only going to increase, Terlep said. Virtually every manufacturer offers telematics, which will eventually change everything that we know about the auto and repair industry. Over-the-air (OTA) will also create entirely new businesses, Terlep added. More companies will spring up to provide remote services that can update vehicle systems and even repair vehicles on the fly.
But when should a company begin looking at offering calibration services, and what are solid practices for doing so?
That was the topic of discussion for the seminar titled “Yay or Nay: Starting a Separate Business for Calibration.” Panelists included Brandon Fisch, CEO of Drive Tech ADAS; Gary Hart, executive director of the Independent Glass Association; Barry Lintner, owner of Correct Calibration Services; and Jacques Navant, technical director at frogitout.
Panelists said that prior to a company offering calibration services, it must first gauge the number of local competitors as well as service gaps.
“What will the investment be for equipment, location, employees, etc.? This is your required start up.”
The number of jobs required to break even must also be considered, as well as the company’s reason for entering into calibration.
Another question to ask: “Do I have enough time to spend on launching a new company while managing my existing auto glass business?”
Companies also need to build rapport with competitors and convince them to send business their way. Success, according to panelists, comes down to inspiring people with whom the company works.
Next up at Auto Glass Week was a general educational session on windshield repair and calibration. Navant, also a panelist for this seminar, reminded attendees that just like snowflakes, no two repairs are going to be the same.
Those in the audience sought guidance on when windshield repair is the correct course of action. Panelists say that any crack or chip in or near the camera viewport will likely require replacement. Linda Rollinson, president of the National Windshield Repair Division (NWRD) recommended pre-scans for those scenarios in which the chip is near the camera.
She also spoke to the benefits of communicating with the customer, which in turn serves to educate and retain the customer for the future. For questions and concerns, panelists directed the audience to the NWRD webpage.
“This is happening with most of the vehicles on the road right now,” Navant says. “Don’t be left behind.”
Next up was an introduction to the newly updated Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) Standard, developed by the AGRSS Standards Committee,” Navant says.
“We basically changed quite a bit of things concerning ADAS,” says Bob Beranek, chair of that AGSC committee.
Beranek says the standard is based on customer safety, the technicians themselves and associated safety concerns, as well as considerations that make businesses viable. With respect to the new standard, there will be a new section in the assessment category, as well as in the recordkeeping and education categories.
The last Auto Glass Week session of the day saw coverage of new auto glass legislation introduced in certain U.S. states, including Virginia and Massachusetts.
Auto Glass Week continues on Thursday, Sept. 15. Stay tuned for additional coverage about seminars and all our coverage of the show floor.