NAPA AutoCare VP Jason Rainey: 'I Can't Say Enough About This Industry'

July 20, 2022

Ratchet+Wrench Editor Chris Jones sat down with NAPA Vice President of AutoCare Jason Rainey to talk about the impact of the 2022 NAPA Expo.

July 20, 2022, LAS VEGAS—With 40 educational sessions and an expo floor featuring 270 exhibitors, the 2022 NAPA Expo returned to Las Vegas, Nevada for the first time in seven years. One of the key people behind the event is Jason Rainey, vice president of NAPA AutoCare. He took a few minutes to talk to Ratchet+Wrench about conference logistics, what it means to be back following the pandemic, and NAPA's role in shaping the industry through this event. 

Ratchet+Wrench: It’s been seven years since the last NAPA Expo. What's changed from then to now in terms of the way you present a show, the way you approach a show, and what it means?

Jason Rainey: I think it's important to first start out [that] this show was originally scheduled for April 2020. And the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to put on an event of this size—this is the aftermarket's single largest show from one banner for one partner for one brand. And so, there are a lot of moving pieces to it. There are so many great people that have to come together to put this thing on.

For us, we started planning this thing in the third, fourth quarter of 2017. That's when you start talking about putting on a show like this. It's picking the right general sessions, the right content, making it relative relatable to today, but motivational and grabbing. It's this trade show floor, which is absolutely incredible, right? When you walk in here and see all the blue and gold. It's the seminars; we offered almost 40 seminars for all of our attendees to be able to attend while they're here. So, when we had to postpone in 2017, your instant reaction was just you're heartbroken. I mean, we've worked so hard on this, but we weren't alone. It only took a few days to realize that we were if we were headed for other things—the pity party was over, and it kind of changed things. 

At first, when we went into the initial phases of the pandemic, we didn't really know what we were getting. So, we've rescheduled it for February of 2021 … then we had to cancel that too because we were still in the thick of [COVID]. So, this is my third NAPA Expo that I've attended in my career, and this one means a little bit more to me.

R+W: I guess it seemed to be a happy accident that the conference happened in 2022 with the evolution of the revised branding, the new tagline—it all comes together.

Rainey: That’s a great point. If you look at all the things that we have done since then, this is just the right time to launch. It's the right time to get excited.

R+W: Let's rewind a little bit. You talked about the sessions. You have a lot of EV sessions; you have a lot of emerging technologies sessions. You talked about developing those in 2017. Did you update as you got closer?

Rainey: The nice thing about our sessions is we have everything from profitability, HR management, service advisor training, technical training, marketing, motivational. I mean, there are a number of categories. I think we had five different categories. Every session that was presented at NAPA Expo was approved, vetted by the NAPA Auto Care Council. And the reason why that's so important for us is we wanted to reach out and select content that was relatable to their life. 

How this actually started is our team here worked with the council to first throw presenters up on the wall: Who's good? Who's good at industry shows? What do we have internally that we use? We started the categorization, then we actually had a tryout where we brought our council members from all over the country to NAPA headquarters, and every seminar presenter that's here today had to give us a 15-minute abbreviated session and then followed up with Q&A. We had to do this twice—I think we were less than three weeks from NAPA Expo, and we had to throw the towel in on 2020. So, we brought every seminar presenter into NAPA headquarters, and they did their entire presentation in front of our executive leadership team, looking for standard things like slide edits, content reliability, if they know who our customer is, and do they know what our customer wants?

R+W: Did you have the same location chosen; was it was it always Vegas?

Rainey: Before my time, they had places like Orlando, but it's just evolved so much and so we go to Las Vegas because it's the convention capital of the U.S.  I mean, this is the place that's big enough to be able to hold the amount of people that we bring to it. We've used the Las Vegas Convention Center before; we've worked with the Mandalay Bay folks in 2015. This has been great. This is just awesome because it's just the right size, easy to get to the rooms, easy to get to the seminars, and then there's this Vegas thing.

R+W: So, the one thing we talked about with the show is you've got three points of excitement. Of course, you got the show coming back live which people seem to really be in to, you've got the logo release, and you've got the sessions. In that circle of energy you guys have created, what have you noticed?

Rainey: For the folks that have never come, it's always eye-opening. And once they come, they never stop coming because when you walk into this exhibit hall, this is for NAPA store owners, the NAPA AutoCare centers and their preferred installers. And so, this show is 100 percent about them. And every booth that they attend, whether it's on the program side, or on the supplier side, is an approved NAPA product. So, you're going to the right person. You're already partners.

On the general session side, it's so great to kind of hear from some of our strategic partnerships and the folks that are in charge and making sure that we carry those forward. And then when you get into a room, and you have such great motivational speakers that really have relatable content for you to make you feel good and bring everybody together again. We offer 40 different seminars, and you get to pick out seven throughout the time of the event. It's also a really good opportunity for our store owners to spend with their customers when the phones aren't ringing when you know when they're not yelling at each other because the part didn't show up or whatever. This is such a good getaway from the day-to-day grind. 

R+W: Were there any products here that you want to call attention to?

Rainey: Obviously, we have a NAPA Autotech training booth that we are encouraging our shop owners to go visit. We launched our AAA battery at the beginning of this year, and so both our battery manufacturers are here, and we have AAA here.

R+W: Are there new exhibitors here that are part of NAPA AutoCare?

Rainey: Yeah, 360 Payments is an example of that obviously. Repair Shop of Tomorrow is here. We've added 25 major programs since 2018, and they're all here.

R+W: Was there anything else you wanted to share?

Rainey: I hope you guys have seen the excitement and the energy that is coming from the seminars and the general sessions and there are so many great things going on in the aftermarket today. But we've all been so caged up and it's almost like they opened up the gate and we're running.  And to see everybody be excited about it, I can't say enough about this industry … It's so fun when we can entertain them like this and watch their mouth's drop when they enter the show floor and know this is for them. I just I hope you guys really capture that passion.

About the Author

Ratchet+Wrench Staff Reporters

The Ratchet+Wrench staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and mechanical repair experience.

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