At the World Table
The Enduring Power of Partnership
It started as a simple forum – an exchange of ideas and discussion surrounding the automotive recycling industry and ways to improve business. Now, seven years later, the International Roundtable on Automotive Recycling (IRT) has become a global event, bringing together the top leaders in automotive recycling, insurance, collision repair and government in one forum over the course of a few days.

Partnership was the theme of the 7th annual International Roundtable on Automotive Recycling, held November 10-12 in Phoenix, immediately following ARA’s 70th Annual Convention and Exposition. As newly-inaugurated ARA President and IRT Co-Chair Ed MacDonald welcomed over 70 automotive recyclers and industry leaders from around the globe, he issued a challenge to all in attendance.

“Our challenge for this day and a half event is for us to ultimately come away with a clearer direction on how to proceed in our respective global partnerships. What began in Japan in 2006 as a meeting of global leaders with a sincere interest to discuss our industry, and the motivation to raise awareness about it, resulted in the success of subsequent IRTs rooted in worldwide inclusiveness, as well as an awareness of mutual interests and the unique opportunities they present. While the theme is partnerships, the goal we will strive for is growing our industry worldwide to be more progressive, profitable, understood, and respected.”

It was a challenge readily accepted by the representatives from Hungary, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Korea, and the United States, as they embarked upon two days of presentations and discussions focusing on the state of automotive recycling around the globe.

“We were proud to host the IRT this year,” said ARA CEO, Michael Wilson. “Having attended previous IRTs in Liverpool, Québec and Coffs Harbour, when organizers were looking for a host country for 2013, ARA leadership jumped at the opportunity. We were able to invite our international colleagues to participate in ARA’s 70th Annual Convention and Exposition, as well as offer the ARA membership a unique occasion to dialogue and learn from fellow professional automotive recyclers from around the world.”

Previous IRTs have been held in Brussels, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Coffs Harbour, Quebec City, and Liverpool.

New and Returning Attendees Gain Insight

With many returning faces and some attending for the first time, recyclers shared country reports that illuminated commonalities and differences within the automotive recycling industry when grappling with current and emerging issues. Some countries are more advanced in one dimension of the industry, while others are facing market forces and regulatory challenges that may have been dealt with elsewhere. Many regular attendees of the International Roundtable see exponential value in attending each year.

“Global partnerships such as the IRT as well as other regional conferences and symposiums foster opportunities for participation that can unite, challenge, and educate the industry,” said Andy Latham, Managing Director of Salvage Wire in the UK and IRT Co-Chair.

Featured speakers included Dr. Chen Meng, Professor, Executive Vice Chairman and Secretary General of AARTI, School of Mechanical Engineering in Shanghai. Dr. Meng spoke about the implementation of an Extended Producer Responsibility in Manufacturing policy in China, how end-of-life vehicles are treated and the country’s goal to achieve 95 percent auto recycling rates by 2020.

Michael Third, Director of Total Auto Recyclers in Melbourne, Australia provided an overview of the ISO-9001 certification and its value to professional automotive recyclers.

Attendees heard from Anson Tse, Head of eBay Parts and Accessories about advantages for U.S.-based eBay sellers, including a new parcel process that ships packages around the world from a single U.S. location. The shipping program is expected to be implemented in several other countries in the coming months. Mark Buffa and Yury Kaganov provided an overview of ARADirect, ARA’s online auction platform that is offering new opportunities for ARA and affiliate chapter members to access salvage vehicles and meet their inventory needs.

Howard Nusbaum, Administrator of the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program, spoke to the group about the role of the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) in ensuring the proper handling of total loss vehicles in the U.S.

Programs and Partners

Transitioning from global partnerships to other partnerships critical to the future sustainability of the automotive recycling industry, recyclers discussed partnerships with lawmakers and regulators. Examples included the United States’ Cash for Clunkers program and the Canadian Environmental End-of-Life programs developed and shared between the Automotive Recyclers of Canada and the Canadian government.

The U.S. Cash for Clunkers program was fashioned as an economic stimulus as much as an environmental package, while the Canadian program was strongly environmentally-based. Automotive recyclers were integral, if not formal, partners with governmental entities in trying to fashion programs that met the government missions and at the same time provided automotive recyclers with much needed product – vehicles.

Executive Director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC), Steve Fletcher, described in detail how ARC has worked with the Canadian government and auto manufacturers on a variety of mutually beneficial initiatives.

OEs and Auto Recyclers

Partnerships between automotive recyclers and auto manufacturers were another discussion topic during the two-day event. While on some topics the auto recycling industry and the OEs have diverging perspectives, the ability to work collaboratively is also critical to the future of the automotive industry. The proper handling of hybrid batteries has been an issue where auto recyclers and the manufacturers have been able to find common ground. For instance, Toyota has reached out to ARA and is in the process of identifying ARA members who will become hybrid battery collection centers.

It is noted that often the OEM/recycler relationships are not equal partnerships, but lean more towards relationships where the auto recyclers lack control of their destiny. Recyclers struggle to get access to critical OE data necessary for proper identification and interchange of the components that the industry harvests and resells -- data that is just not forthcoming.

Michael Wilson shared that some state governments in the U.S. are in the process of passing “Right to Repair” legislation that would require the automakers to provide the same diagnostic and repair information currently available to dealerships, to vehicle owners and independent repair facilities. Representatives from Europe spoke about the European Union’s End of Life Directive, which has required manufacturers to provide detailed parts information to “authorized treatment facilities,” for over ten years. 

Perhaps the most important partnership discussed was the association to association partnership. As evidenced by the diverse array of auto recyclers in attendance, for those countries where there is an established automotive recycling organization, it is easy to have international outreach. Thanks to these types of forums, the connections are blossoming. In countries that are just developing a professional automotive recycling industry infrastructure, a great deal can be learned.

“Via this type of forum, we hope to reach out and share as much as possible for the future growth and development of recycling worldwide,” said MacDonald. “As an example, our colleagues in Malaysia were threatened with a used parts ban in 2009. ARA worked with industry entities there to educate lawmakers about the environmental and economic benefits of automotive recycling and parts re-utilization. Very recently South Africa was likewise threatened with a ban on selling used parts. The international cooperation formed because of the Malaysian situation aided the response in South Africa that succeeded in defeating that proposed governmental ban.”

Committed to Excellence

Attendees of the IRT left with a commitment to continue working together and build towards a more structured framework equipped to respond to global opportunities and challenges, recognizing the commonalities that unite automotive recyclers as the processors of total loss vehicles. In the coming months and leading up to the 2014 IRT, a working group of representatives from North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe will be developing an outline for a new international alliance of automotive recyclers.

“We should be the leaders in fostering a presence for professional automotive recyclers around the globe,” said MacDonald. “Sharing common industry standards, protocols, structures and procedures so that professional automotive recyclers in all countries are in control of their own destiny. We can only be enriched by our partnerships strengthened here at the IRT.”

The 2014 International Roundtable will be held next fall and hosted by the Japanese Auto Recyclers Association.

Click to download the full January/February 2014 issue in PDF format

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