Satisfaction and a desire to meet again soon. This was the general mood among exhibitors present at Autopromotec last May. After the long stop imposed by the pandemic, going back to a physical event allowed several players in the automotive aftermarket sector to finalize agreements and create business partnerships. Over the four days of the event, 75,141 professional operators, 15 percent of which from 116 countries around the world, filled the Bologna exhibition centre, looking at the latest innovations in terms of products and services specific to each market segment. Undisputed stars of the 29th edition were the 1,311 participating companies, 31% of which came from 46 countries around the world, which joined forces in creating an exclusive international showcase of technology and innovation. Autopromotec thus proved once again to be a truly global event with a wide international participation, the result of a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Ice Agency, thanks to which a new record milestone was reached: more than 180 foreign delegates from over 35 countries were present at the 2022 edition of the event. Superb results were achieved in terms of B2B meetings, organized thanks to the support of Enterprise Europe Network: the 800 meetings held this year represent a sharp increase from the 629 of the last pre-pandemic edition, involving 138 representatives from as many Italian exhibitors. Autopromotec, however, did not prove to be an opportunity only for the automotive aftermarket sector. In fact, the influx of exhibitors and visitors represented big business for the city of Bologna as well. According to an estimate by the Autopromotec Observatory, the 2022 edition of the show generated an induced revenue for the city that can be estimated at around 31 million euro. All cash for the city's coffers - including hotels, restaurants, bars, stores and taxis - calculated taking into account the average expenses incurred by visitors and exhibitors during the four days of the Fair. Autopromotec thus showed beyond doubt to be a driving force for the entire area’s economy.
The automotive aftermarket and the challenges ahead
After a three-year break, the automotive aftermarket sector and its operators came together again at the Autopromotec exhibition. Mauro Severi, president of AICA - Associazione Italiana Costruttori Autoattrezzature (Italian Association of Garage Equipment Manufacturers), commented positively on the results obtained, indicating the direction the sector must take to remain competitive.
Mr Severi, what impact is the current economic situation having on the industry?
"Despite the complexity due in part to the pandemic and in part to geopolitical uncertainties, the Italian garage-equipment industry has continued to perform well. Our companies have been able to adapt to different situations and continued designing new equipment and investing in innovation. The result of this intense work was seen at Autopromotec not only among the stands but also in the many conferences and numerous B2B meetings held between professional operators and managers from different areas of the world."
Is it safe to say that the automotive aftermarket is enjoying good health
"Yes. During 2020 the sector managed to defend its market shares, and in 2021 production witnessed a 25 percent increase, with exports still above 87 percent. These figures speak of true Italian global excellence, so much so that the role played by our enterprises is now fundamental for the entire international automotive system, as it is collateral to everything being done in Europe. In fact, without the production of our medium and large enterprises as well as many of our small artisans, the automotive sector would likely miss a vital element, proper maintenance”.
What are the challenges facing the industry in the future?
"Sustainability, technological development and new digital industrial processes. These are the elements that companies in our sector will have to focus on to remain competitive in the market. The aftermarket sector, from equipment to garages, is ready to embrace all innovations, and AICA is constantly engaged in talks with the institutions to support the companies' ability to innovate."
The circular economy is now a hot topic also for the mobility sector
The 2022 edition of Autopromotec featured the vital participation of the tire retreading sector, both in terms of exhibitors and international meetings organized during the fair. We talked about this with Stefano Carloni, president of AIRP, the Italian Tire Retreaders Association.
Mr Carloni, even in an aftermarket trade show we find “circular economy” among the key words, what role does it play within mobility?
The concept of the circular economy is now well known; what we may be less familiar with instead, is the fact that, when looking at the goal of making mobility in general more sustainable, the circular economy has already played an important role in the past and offers enormous opportunities for the future. Tire retreading is the perfect example: every time we choose to retread a used tire instead of buying a new one, we save 70 percent of the raw materials involved, 65 percent of the energy used in the production process, and a huge amount of CO2 emissions: 35 percent of from the production process and 95 percent from transportation; in addition, we avoid the costs and environmental impacts associated with disposing End-of-Life products.
Is a practice as "old" as retreading still relevant in today's automotive industry?
The modernity of retreading is an obvious fact, and in a sense also dramatic. The environmental impact of transportation and mobility is not only related to the consumption of fossil fuels, but also to all the activities involved in vehicle production and use, both upstream and downstream: production, service, repair, disposal. All activities that absorb raw materials and energy. That is why, while saving materials, fuels and energy used to be a virtuous option among a plethora of possibilities, today it has become an absolute necessity, especially in the face of serious problems with the availability of strategic raw materials such as natural and synthetic rubber and steel and given the unprecedented increase in the cost of energy.
Talking about rebuilding, what is the message that comes from this edition of Autopromotec?
What emerged is the need for a paradigm shift, also as far as specific regulations are concerned, in order to effectively encourage remanufacturing practices; at industrial level, then, it is essential to promote a culture of ecodesign, that is, designing products and components to be durable and reusable, something that needs to be thought of right from the outset, although at the moment this practice appears to be rather complex for several tire manufacturers to implement.
"We are very satisfied with the outcome of the event," says Cemb’s marketing department. The fair saw a good participation of visitors and, above all, a strong interest in the products on display and the many news introduced, as well as an undisputed desire to return to a physical event. In fact, Sipav brought to Autopromotec a series of Cemb-branded items concerning the entire range, from the Argos Tread profiler to the new truck balancers with innovative integrated lift, the Parrot tire changer with the latest generation LeverLess system and the revolutionary 2-HIT balancer. Equally important and somewhat unexpected was the presence of international visitors, albeit mainly from Europe rather than overseas. As for the Italian market, many end users from both northern and southern Italy visited the fair. Several vehicle manufacturers and tire producers were also present."
"The decision to participate in Autopromotec 2022 with so many uncertainties and unknowns was a winner, and after more than 2 years of postponements we were finally able to meet our customers as well as have the opportunity to establish new contacts," said Grazia Iori, Cormach general manager. "We knew that there would be a lack of visitors from certain parts of the world, and we all know why, but the surprise was to receive visitors from equally important yet unusual markets, which we had not considered possible. Difficult to say for certain how many of these new contacts will produce tangible results, but certainly the quality of visitors has changed and those who decided to visit Autopromotec and meet with us did so with concrete goals and motivated by a search for alternative products and suppliers. We are reaping more immediate results on the Italian market, as one might expect, as a result of our focusing on the world of electric mobility and digitization, all part of the National Plan Industry 4.0. It is difficult to make predictions because everything changes quickly but "positive thinking" is vital. Despite the uncertainties we are always looking for new products and solutions to make our proposals more appealing and follow the demands of our partners."
"The feedback we received from Autopromotec is more than positive." For Francesca Paoli, CEO of Dino Paoli, the event held in Bologna allowed the company to close contracts and meet new Italian and foreign customers. "Compared to previous editions, this fair was especially felt as we were coming from a long period of difficulties and limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic," explained Francesca Paoli. Digital events allowed us to keep in contacts with our clients, but it was during this event that we concluded business agreements." For Dino Paoli, according to its owner, foreign countries have played a major role. In fact, 30 percent of the contracts signed were the result of meetings held during the four-day event with automotive representatives from companies operating in South America, the Middle East and North Africa.
"Autopromotec was the first major event after a long time that allowed us to meet face-to-face with our suppliers, colleagues, franchisees, potential new partners or entrepreneurs interested in joining our network, an integral part of the Michelin Group," explained Paolo Lomonaco Category & Communication manager of Euromaster. "The main focus of our offer revolves around digital solutions for workshop management and relationships with end users, which is fundamental in the evolution of the current market. We also featured all the products and services offered in the field of tires and light mechanical repair and maintenance dedicated to private customers, fleets and companies, such as "Euromaster Assistance" the 24-hour roadside assistance service dedicated to truck and light transport fleets, as well as all the exclusive advantages reserved for those who join our network ranging from training, dedicated commercial conditions, valuable partnerships and constant support in organization and business development. All this to be recognized in the market as true mobility partners who value a professional approach, honesty and customer care."
"Three years after the last event with all the pandemic and non-pandemic issues that have occurred in the meantime, we must highlight with satisfaction the meetings we had during the fair's with long standing customers, whom we had not seen for a long time, as well as with potential new customers and end users in order to have direct feedback on real needs and product satisfaction," said Paolo Cortinovis CEo of Omcn. Considering that Autopromotec is an international fair, but with a strong focus on the domestic market we noticed that domestic operators made up the bulk of the visitors. Nevertheless, we were also positively surprised by a good flow of foreign visitors, coming in our case from more than fifty different countries. On the other hand, we should not forget that due to wars and lingering pandemic issues in some parts of the world, many could not travel and attend the fair. Besides the contracts signed during the event, we cannot stress enough the importance of laying foundations for future new collaborations and consolidating our traditional distribution network."
"Autopromotec was interesting for many reasons, but above all because it allowed us to meet customers, from Italy and other countries after such a long time," said Igino De Lotto, marketing manager of Texa. "However, the event also meant for us many networking opportunities with other companies in the sector. From the data we collected, those who visited our stand were 85 percent Italians and the remaining 15 percent were foreigners, with a slight prevalence of British and Dutch visitors. We established the foundations for future potential agreements that will surely go on to be consolidated in the future. But beyond that, it was very important for us to see the interest that the new products and services aroused in customers, but also in those who are not yet Texa customers. A positive sign indeed for the immediate future."
"The return to a physical event such as Autopromotec marks the beginning of a new chapter for the industry and, as Vamag, we are proud to be a part of it and are ready to continue with renewed passion as the sector takes its first steps into the post-pandemic world," commented Gianfranco Crosta, General Manager of Vamag. Engaging our customers and partners more than ever and, for the first time, allowing them to have a live "hands-on" experience of the solutions and innovations designed for the industry, we are showing the value we bring to the market for the benefit of all operators, through programs and products such as Vehicle Dynamic Acceptance both for cars and trucks. We took this opportunity to rethink the way we interact with our customers. This year, we wanted to offer them the opportunity to connect with our brands in a different manner, more innovative, more engaging, and personalized. Our customers have always been the focus of our strategies, so all of these elements are key to strengthening the relationship with each of them. Our goal was for our customers to leave the event with the assurance that Vamag is by their side and working tirelessly to develop products and programs that will enhance their work and provide tangible benefits."