The WATS show took place in Pretoria recently with a rather sad official visitor tally of just 1 930 visitors. Despite the attendance figures, the show lived up to the hype, with89 exhibitors represented at 116 stands, each of which was well equipped to handle visitor interest and queries and with a host of interesting product and technology on show.
The event played backdrop to a cross-section of exhibitors servicing the automotive aftermarket, including representatives from the following sub-sectors:
- auto electrical
- workshop equipment
- diesel and turbo specialists
- automotive friction (brakes and clutch)
- auto body repair computer systems
- computer systems for parts cataloging
- automotive training
- automotive tools and equipment
- workshop franchises
- automotive diagnostic equipment
- auto engine components
- auto air conditioning
- auto parts and spares
- auto trade associations (RMI, AA, Capricorn)
- marketing specialists
- dealer and workshop accessories
- engine cooling
An estimated 5 940 many hours went into creating the event – around 742.5 work days – which is an undeniable amount of commitment from the exhibitors. One had expected the trade (who are constantly commenting on the desire of being able to address the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers with regards to their products and innovations offered to this trade) to have expended far more energy to attend this Trade and Technology show. It provided an excellent opportunity to both addresses the exhibitors on a one-to-one basis as well as the chance to attend the free and highly informative mini-seminars by a number of the exhibitors available each day.
Interestingly, it was students from the Technicians (and our future industry) who expressed the need to remain up to date with the industry news via AutoForum and such events, and it was heartening to see them making use of the show as a learning and networking opportunity.
Even taking into account the economic downturn affecting the trade, this Workshop and Technology Show provided aftermarket businesses with the opportunity to discuss the trends and means of not only surviving but growing through the tough times. In previous WATS shows the attendance figures for a single day show were in the region of 2 500 to 3 000, perhaps a two-day show is too long – we suspect these aftermarket businesses have adopted a day-to-day survival strategy incorporating a “tend to the sales counter constantly – in order to protect what business there is” attitude.
Whatever the reason, it was a worthwhile event that will hopefully attract a better response at future hostings.