From updating the Association’s Strategic Plan to developing the online vendor Buyer’s Guide, ARA is primed to lead the industry into the future.
By Jessica Andrews
In a unique turn of events, Scott Robertson, Jr. has served as ARA’s president for two terms, as well as the three of four other ARA Executive Committee members. Last year, the addition of Nick Daurio filled the vacant spot. It was almost as if it was known what was coming for the industry and the world. This additional stability helped ARA deal decisively on initiatives during the most chaotic year in recent history.
It has also allowed for the full-cycle of initiatives to come to fruition under this leadership.
Needless to say, it has been a very busy two years. As the EC now resumes its rotation with Marty Hollingshead stepping into the role of president, let’s take a moment to review some of the highlights of 2020 and 2021 accomplished for the industry.
Strategic Plan Revision
In early 2020, ARA announced an update to the Association’s Strategic Plan representing a direction that will guide current and future work. The plan was adopted by the ARA Board of Directors in July 2020.
“2020 has been a game changer,” said ARA President Scott Robertson, Jr. “During these challenging times and given the unprecedented impact that a global pandemic is having on all businesses and industries, the direction outlined in this Strategic Plan will help ARA continue to move forward. Much planning and strategic thought went into this document, designed to promote the professional automotive recyclers and their businesses for years to come.”
ARA’s Strategic Plan is grounded in the Association’s mission to advance the automotive recycling industry and promote its beneficial effects on society. The Strategic Plan identifies four strategic initiatives that are the means through which ARA plans to translate its vision into practice. The strategic initiatives focus on branding, non-dues revenue, government advocacy, and education/certification/compliance. Each of the four strategic initiatives outlines a series of implementation strategies which describe how ARA plans to commit its resources and goals that represent how progress and future success will be measured.
“This Plan is a representation of ARA as the eyes, ears and voice of the professional automotive recycling industry,” said ARA Executive Director, Sandy Blalock. “With the direction and guidance the Strategic Plan provides, and the support of our ARA volunteer leaders and members, I am confident that ARA is well equipped to meet any challenge that comes our way.”
In the summer of 2020, ARA took the popular annual ARA Buyer’s Guide resource and translated it into a new and improved online format. The traditional printed Buyer’s Guide, still being produced as a handy desktop resource, has been a mainstay of ARA’s member benefits package for many years, providing valuable information to assist ARA members in their decision-making process when shopping for industry products and services. It also brings value to ARA Associate Members who are featured in both guides.
The new online guide (autorecyclingbuyersguide.com/) is designed to equip automotive recyclers with current information and expanded listings at their finger tips.
HISTORIC VIRTUAL INDUSTRY EVENT
As event after event were canceled in 2020, ARA rose to the challenge of a pandemic year to successfully launch the industry’s first-ever live training and trade show, the 77th Annual ARA Convention & Exposition “EDGE 2020.” It had almost 35 sessions and Tech Talks, over 30 speakers, 24 exhibitors, and networking chat rooms.
“For the first time, we have the capability to help and engage with more auto recyclers than ever through the top-notch virtual platform, and bring the ARA Annual Convention right to their office and to their teams,” said Scott Robertson. “This virtual training event was the launching pad for ARA to launch other online training, webinars, facility tours and more.”
In late spring of 2021, ARA was honored to be chosen by longtime industry supporter and ARA Honorary Lifetime Member Mike French as the future publisher of Auto Recycler’s ToolBox® Magazine. “Mike and his family have been strong supporters of ARA and this industry for as long as I can remember,” said Executive Director, Sandy Blalock.
“ARA is humbled that Mike would choose to transfer ToolBox®, the Virtual Auto Recycler Trade Show™ and their websites over to ARA upon his semi-retirement.
Our leadership and staff are committed to preserving the integrity of these communication platforms and incorporating them into the Association’s overarching communications strategy to promote the industry at-large and ROE – Recycled Original Equipment® manufacturer parts.”
The April/May 2021 issue was the first issue published under the ARA. ARA maintained the page count, secured a new printer, grew a larger advertising support base, and retained the writers all in short order.
GROWING OPPORTUNITY FOR ROE®
ARA has taken aggressive steps over the past two years to protect and grow the market for ROE – Recycled Original Equipment® parts. The ROE® brand was trademarked in 2019 as a means to reflect recycled auto parts as OEM parts. This summer, ARA met with the Federal Trade Commission about the unfair and deceptive campaigns undertaken by auto manufacturers to push ROE® parts out of the market. Shortly after, the FTC voted to increase enforcement against repair restrictions. The unanimous vote (5-0) on a policy statement that prioritizes investigations into unlawful repair restrictions was taken during an open Commission meeting during which ARA and others in the automotive replacement parts industry participated.
This FTC decision, coming on the heels of President Biden’s Executive Order which called on the FTC to institute rules to curb anti-competitive restrictions that limit consumers’ repair choices, sends a strong message to the manufacturers that they are not the only game in town.
“The misinformation campaigns and barriers to consumer choice that automotive recyclers have fought for years are finally getting recognized at the highest levels of our federal government,” said ARA Executive Director, Sandy Blalock. “We are encouraged by these positive steps forward to restoring consumer choice in how their vehicle is repaired.” The FTC policy statement specifically focuses on targeting enforcement of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and other repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws or use deceptive practices.
Also, ARA strongly opposed Subaru’s published position statement that misleads consumers and effectively bans the use of safe and economical alternative repair parts. ARA’s opposition was widely covered by industry trade press.
Executive Director Sandy Blalock noted in a press release that “Auto Manufacturers have become more aggressive in their efforts to force ROE – Recycled Original Equipment® and aftermarket parts out of the market. These statements and tactics stifle competition, greatly increase costs to consumers and in turn, can result in more repairable vehicles being considered uneconomical to repair. Manufacturer repair restrictions have become such a significant issue that both the Biden Administration and FTC have taken unambiguous steps to increase antitrust and consumer protection enforcement against manufacturer repair restrictions.”
ARA’s President Scott Robertson Jr. and Executive Director Sandy Blalock testified in several states against harmful legislation in the state that would place severe limitations on the utilization of ROE® parts. Two of the highest profile bills were in Rhode Island and proposed several discriminatory and baseless restrictions on the utilization of ROE® parts for automotive repairs in Rhode Island. Restrictions such as requiring that the used part be sourced within a 50-mile radius of a location that is not specified in the bills. Blalock’s testimony pointed out that the bill could very easily be interpreted as an outright ban on the use of used repair parts from any entity outside of Rhode Island and that discriminating against forms of commerce from other states and only permitting insurers to source used parts from businesses within Rhode Island is a violation of interstate commerce law.
Another proposed limitation put forward in the bills would limit a vehicle owner’s choice to used OEM parts harvested from a vehicle of the same year or newer. ARA testified that this is impractical and demonstrates a lack of understanding about the many replacement part options available to vehicle owners today. ROE® parts in the same vehicle model series should always be allowed. For many used parts, the mileage of the vehicle from which the part was disassembled has no bearing on the functionality or condition of the part, such as body or cosmetic components. Using examples from her own vehicle history, Blalock asked why good, quality parts from the same model series should be excluded in vehicle repair.
Robertson focused on the positive environmental impact of the industry and fielded multiple questions from interested members of the House and Senate Committee members. Robertson referenced the 2017 study by Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts that measured the environmental impact the automobile recycling industry had in Massachusetts. WPI’s study verified that auto recycling is carbon negative and reduced the carbon footprint.
TOTALED TREASURE INTERNET SENSATION
In late 2020, ARA launched and is now producing episodes of Totaled Treasure, a consumer-facing YouTube video series designed to show automotive recycling facilities in a positive way and educate on the industry, while also being entertaining. Auto recyclers host the film crew to conduct a “treasure hunt” looking for items left in cars. The clever show has yielded some real treasures for the host facility, as well as attention on social media.
In 2021, ARA submitted comments to the U.S. EPA in response to their request regarding their 1986 policy on the sale and use of aftermarket catalytic converters (1986 Policy). The goal behind the creation of the 1986 Policy was to allow consumers to have access to less expensive yet still effective used OEM and aftermarket catalytic converters, giving vehicle owners incentive to replace their worn-out catalytic converters, thus keeping our air cleaner.
While the EPA permits used OEM catalytic converters to be sold and installed on vehicles so long as the requirements of the 1986 Policy are complied with (and absent any state restrictions), ARA explained to the EPA that the current testing standards for used OEM catalysts in the 1986 Policy are too stringent to achieve the air quality goals of the EPA. Therefore, the EPA should update the testing standards for used OEM catalytic converters because it would be better for overall air quality if vehicle owners could replace worn-out or missing catalytic converters with higher-functioning, used OEM ones.
ARA believes that laws and regulations should not unreasonably restrict the resale of motor vehicle parts by automotive recyclers and has explained to the EPA that by updating the restrictions on the resale of used OEM catalytic converters that the EPA would be able to better improve U.S. air quality.
ARA Invests in Training RESOURCES
Several new and exciting training resources were launched through ARA University, accessible for free, 24/7 to all ARA members and their employees. These NEW courses and resources were added in 2020 and 2021.
Electric and Hybrid Training: The automotive industry is going electric. Learn all about hybrid and electric automotive technology in this new 8-module certification course. Prepare your company and employees to safely handle high-voltage vehicles.
Depollution Training: To provide YOU with the training necessary so that you can safely dismantle and recycle the vehicles in your inventory, this module will cover the best practices, industry standards, and regulations for fluid removal, fuel, oil and other petroleum-based fluids as well as antifreeze.
Electric Vehicle Battery Database: Featuring an analysis of over 1,650 models from 65 vehicle manufacturers, ARA is providing this database to assist automotive recyclers with identifying and removing batteries from all vehicles.
ARA UNIVERSITY BOOSTS NEW VIDEOS
Available are 18 new Tech Talk videos as well as five full 50-minute educational sessions are available on the ARA University in the Resource Library, including pre-recorded content from associate members. EDGE 2020 inspired a series of new video resources that include multi-part virtual facility tours of B&R Auto Wrecking in Corvallis, Oregon, Wilbert’s U Pull It in Williamson, New York, and Nordstrom’s Automotive in Garretson, South Dakota.
• ARA was able to get automotive recycling as an essential business included in that category to remain open while other businesses were forced to close.
• ARA developed a number of vital industry pandemic-related resources that resided on a COVID-19 Dashboard on the ARA website. It was updated daily with current information, and sent in a daily email to all members.
• ARA’s COVID-19 Relief Fund provided $65,000 to businesses needing assistance during COVID, and to affiliate chapters to offset losses from canceled shows.
• ARA produced a number of PPP and COVID-19-related webinars on following federal rules and other topics.
• ARA secured ongoing sessions with Jason Redman, who was the “ARA 2020 Industry Coach.”
Jessica Andrews is ARA’s Senior Director of Association Operations and Director of State Government Affairs.