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Crystal Balls and Beer Glasses

Between SEMA and AAPEX in Las Vegas in November to the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis in December, the end of each year often gives us a chance to take a breath from the stress of the year’s engine building activities and start planning ahead.

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While many of our loyal readers are deeply enmeshed in the industrial and heavy-duty diesel end of the engine building industry, most of you are acutely aware that this is “trade show season” for the automotive aftermarket.

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Between SEMA and AAPEX in Las Vegas in November to the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis in December, the end of each year often gives us a chance to take a breath from the stress of the year’s engine building activities and start planning ahead.

Chasing the next shiny object is never more fun than when walking the aisles of a trade show.

Manufacturers have the latest and greatest machines on display and – in most cases – operating, giving you a chance to try before you buy. Parts suppliers showcase their newest innovations to maximize power, performance and (even) fuel efficiency out of the engines you build. And educational seminars put you in classroom settings that allow you to ask questions of experts and legendary engine builders.

Just be sure you’re ready to hear the answers to those questions.

We all know this industry continues to change. Threats – perceived and real – make for a very challenging business environment. Your competitors may have already given up, putting you in the odd position of being the only game in town. NOW who handles the high maintenance customers?

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During this year’s AAPEX Show, much emphasis was placed on the future of this industry. Change is coming, whether we like it or not, say experts, and will impact all of us.

Neal Ganguli, managing director in Deloitte Consulting’s manufacturing sector, presented the opening keynote address titled, “The Future of Mobility and the Aftermarket” and gave some sobering predictions on what is to come.

“Consumer preferences of mobility, the regulatory pressure and the availability of technology have converged and will make change happen much faster,” Ganguli said. “There’s not just one driver of change – you can’t just blame the EPA anymore.”

Ganguli says that within 10 years, 20-25 percent of vehicles will have some form of hybrid or electric powerplant. By 2030, he says 20 percent of the vehicles will be autonomous.

“Economics are making sense,” he says. “Consumers want options with mobility, especially in urban and metro locations. And there’s so much investment going into technology that will only continue.”

There are, of course significant hurdles we as a country will need to clear before you have to worry about only building electric motors. Federal gas taxes, which raise more than $35 billion annually, will have to be offset. Traffic fines, parking meters, vehicle registrations and insurance payments will be reduced and muncipal financing will be impacted. How will those dollars be replaced?

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When I was a kid, the time from Halloween to Christmas seemed like a lifetime; 7 to 10 years was an eternity. Today, of course, I know that 2030 will be here before I even blink. So what should we do?

Join me in Indianapolis on December 6 at a party hosted by Engine Builder and celebrate what  we have right now. We’ll have some fun, announce winners of our Engine Builders of the Year Contest, name a champion in our Engine of the Year social media campaign, and raise our glasses and toast another successful year.

Then we’ll roll up our sleeves and get to work ensuring our influence and participation doesn’t go unnoticed by futurists.

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