Industry unites at IAAF 2023 conference and awards

Industry unites at IAAF 2023 conference and awards

The automotive aftermarket was urged to “raise the bar for the industry” during the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) 2023 conference. The focus was on the ‘Brilliance of Resilience’, celebrating progression and embracing opportunities while also looking at ways to overcome obstacles – our editor, Tom Henman, was there.

During the build-up, I was told that a record number of delegates were expected to make their way through the doors at DoubleTree by Hilton Milton Keynes . The weather was vile, yet people battled the elements to arrive in their droves.

IAAF Chief Executive, Mark Field, opened proceedings with an overview of the organisation’s activities and achievements, emphasising the Right to Repair movement, which is all about ensuring motorists have a fair choice and say in who they trust to fix their vehicle. The IAAF also revealed its shiny new branding.

Conference veterans, Neil Pattemore and Quentin Le Hetet, kicked-off the speaker sessions. Neil, IAAF and UK AFCAR technical director, highlighted the importance of the MV-BEO focus and IAAF’s ongoing lobbying efforts. He was particularly adamant about the need to be heard loud and clear – not just speaking up.

Neil Pattemore

Quentin, meanwhile, continued the resilience theme by offering an industry insight, backed-up with a clear and resounding message to all delegates – and the industry as a whole, I think: “Resilience isn’t just surviving; it’s thriving in the face of adversity.”

Quentin Le Hetet

That sentiment couldn’t be truer of keynote speaker, Claire Lomas MBE. Quite simply, I think she is a superstar. I was blown away by her tenacity, bravery and candidness. After being paralysed from the chest down, to have put her life back together, walked a marathon with an exoskeleton suit, obtain motorcycle and pilot licences, and through herself into everything she does with absolute commitment illustrates the power and potential of the human being and mind – irrespective of how bad things become.

“Every setback is a setup for a comeback. Never underestimate the power of perseverance,” she remarked. I have bought and read both of her books, and I can’t underestimate her influence on this editor.

Tina Drayson

Tina Drayson, operations director at CCM, and Jack Wilson of eBay were up next. Tina – who joked that she had the unenviable task of following Claire! – spoke about the transformative power of data in modern garages: “Numbers tell a story; understand it, and you control your business’ narrative,” she said.

Jack Wilson
Jack Wilson

Jack, meanwhile, focused on eBay’s role in e-commerce, inventory management and fostering business growth through trust and transparency. This particular topic generated some back-and-forth from the audience to the floor.

In the second keynote speech of the day, Nick Leeson, dubbed the ‘rogue trader’ after bankrupting Barings Bank in 1995, gave an assessment on balancing risks and rewards. Captivating and controversial at the same time, he was forthright in his assessments: “Taking risks is essential, but knowing when to seek guidance is equally crucial.”

Nick Leeson
Nick Leeson

The topic of cybersecurity was then brought to the floor, made particularly memorable for a conference-first, I believe, in that delegates were asked to use their smartphones to answer several polling questions about the topic of staying cybersafe in the aftermarket (far-right). Given the potential for a dry subject matter, this was anything but in my view!

The conference concluded with a second panel discussion, this one on the benefits of gender balance in the aftermarket. Back for a second year, Julia Muir, founder of the growing Automotive 30% Club, hosted and, once again, delivered a message of resilience, highlighting that “diversity isn’t just fair; it’s smart business.”

Her guests on the stage shared their own experiences, stories and reasons why the Automotive 30% Club is important to them and their respective businesses. They also revealed how the club has helped implement positive change. A positive way to finish.

Julia Muir
(L-R): Julia Muir, Annick Jourdenais, Laura Hall and Neil Grant

This year’s event included the standard blend of awards and speeches – but with a unique twist of entertainment and a cameo role for yours truly…

The event was hosted Stephen Whitton, who did a marvellous job in keeping proceedings moving, bringing a charm, spark and even some dance moves to the evening!

Mark addressed the guests, shedding light on the industry’s “adaptability and innovative strides”, particularly in the face of adversity. He also elaborated on the IAAF’s strategies for future growth.


Adding to the evening’s excitement, we were treated to an unexpected performance from singing ‘waiters and head chef’. Truthfully, when the ‘Italian’ chef revealed he was going to sing, I was looking for a place to hide: “Please don’t sing!” He did a good job of keeping his cover concealed until bellowing out Nessun Dorma, receiving a deserved standing ovation – I’m not sure the ABBA tribute, with guests joining the ‘waiters’ on stage, received the same acclaim!

A performance by comedian, Tom Allen, followed. It was predicted by several colleagues, actually, that I would be picked on by Tom. He and I share a few characteristics, with the same style of suit added to that list too, so it came as no surprise when he turned to me and said: “Oh, you look very similar to me!”

When he asked what I did for a living, my response that I work in the press was greeted with a quick expletive not for print!

On a serious note, the event also marked a significant charitable achievement. A phenomenal £26,000 was raised in support of Claire. The highlight was the ‘Fright of a Lifetime’ auction, where the highest bidder won an exhilarating flight piloted by the newly-qualified Claire herself, making for an unforgettable experience.

Reflecting on the event, Mark said: “The event was a resounding success, and I’m delighted that we could bring the industry together in such a way. Thanks to our sponsors, the IAAF events team and to our members.

“The IAAF is on a journey with its members, and our events are a key part of this success. This year promises even greater strides with a new website, consumer campaigns, more events and a new motor factor training programme.”


■ Car Distributor of the Year (Sponsored by WAI):

Winner: LKQ Euro Car Parts

Highly Commended: Rays Garage Supplies

■ CV Distributor of the Year (Sponsored by Fras-Le):

Winner: HGV Direct

Highly Commended: CV Components

■ Car Supplier of the Year (Sponsored by Elcome):

Winner: Bilstein Group

Highly Commended: Juratek

■ CV Supplier of the Year (Sponsored by Boswell Insurance):

Winner: GS Yuasa Battery Sales UK

Highly Commended: Exol

■ Service Supplier of the Year (Sponsored by GSF Car Parts):

Winner: Boswell Insurance

Highly Commended: Techman

■ Outstanding Garage Contribution of the Year (Sponsored by Automechanika):

Winner: Louise Baker of Womanic

Product of the Year (Sponsored by Arnold Clark Autoparts):

Winner: SMP Europe for EGR valves

Highly Commended: Ring Automotive for RTC4000/Cordless Rechargeable Tyre Inflator

Outstanding Achievement:

Nick Hayes of TMD Friction UK

For more information about the IAAF, click here.

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