By Brendan Baker
The mega rock group Van Halen had a big hit song in the ‘80s called “Panama” from its “1984” album. For those of you who are familiar with the song, it should start playing in your head right about now.
This year’s Latin Auto Parts Expo, held in Panama City, Panama, was a success. It grew from the previous year with more exhibitors and attendees, but that is only half the story. What you can’t really measure about the show was all the networking and educational opportunities that were going on throughout the three-day event held in June.
Panama, with its Duty Free Zone, turned out to be the ideal location for the Expo, held June 18-20. The Central American country has a stable democratic government that is business-friendly and uses U.S. dollars as its preferred currency. Panama is an international hub from both air and sea, enabling travelers and cargo to reach Latin America, the Caribbean and most of the globe.
According to show’s website, the global motor vehicle aftermarket is estimated be a $395 billion market. Show officials say that the Latin American and Caribbean markets have been growing steadily over the past few years and the outlook for the new vehicle and aftermarket automotive parts industry in the region seem poised for a bright future. One of the reasons that the market is changing is that the vehicle population has matured and more cars are now equipped with current electronic technology like electronic fuel injection (EFI).
We talked to a number of exhibitor and attendees on the show floor about their thoughts on the market and the show in general. Counterman contributor Mandy Aguilar of The Parts House said he thought Saturday would be a light day for booth traffic because many people he thought would be leaving to go back home. However, he said that it picked up pretty well as many of his prospects who were visiting Panama for the weekend showed up early on Saturday, and then many local shops closed early and came to the expo later in the afternoon, so it was a busier day than expected.
Show Director Linda Bassitt said on Friday afternoon the show had already surpassed the attendance at last year’s show and ended up with more than 3,000 visitors by Saturday. Bassitt said they estimated before the show that they would reach close to 2,500 visitors, so the extra 500 was a bonus.
Aguilar said that the majority of the people he talked to were from Central American countries or the Andes region with potential buyers from Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras and as far as Paraguay. He was surprised there were so many people from Venezuela but thinks that with all the political issues that they are now trying to figure out how to grow their economy and businesses. He also noted that it was much more of an international show this year compared to last year, with pavilions for Taiwan, China, the United States and others.
Aguilar noted that what may not have been measured or talked about much is how many of the exhibitors picked up new suppliers from the wide variety of exhibitors represented in the 357 booths at the ALTAPA Convention Center
The next Latin Auto Parts Expo will take place at the ATLAPA Convention Center, June 14-16, 2016. Click here to learn more.