NORTHEAST 2024: The Knockout Automotive Repair Event of the YearWe’re Just Fixing Cars, Right?

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

Between fighting to keep up with advancing technology, contending with customer expectations and going toe to toe with insurance adjusters during repair plan negotiations, every day in automotive and collision shops can leave repairers feeling like they’re on the ropes. But you’re not down and out for the count, so don’t throw in the towel just yet…you’ve got some powerful allies in your corner at the NORTHEAST® 2024 Automotive Services Show.

The gloves are off March 15-17 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus as AASP/NJ’s flagship event returns with all the training, tools and equipment shops need to deliver a knockout!

“We’ve worked really hard to put together a balanced event that brings together all the critical elements of a successful show – valuable education, fun events, giveaways and prizes and, of course, our outstanding exhibitors who are each bringing the best of their company on display,” says Alicia Figurelli, vice president of Thomas Greco Publishing, event managers of NORTHEAST. “Each of these on its own is enough for the typical shop to make the trip out to the expo center, but when you combine them all together, and put them under one roof, there’s truly nothing else like it in our area. We can’t wait for our attendees to take in all that NORTHEAST has to offer.”

The supercard at NORTHEAST 2024 boasts a double-header you’ll want ringside seats to attend. Bob and weave your way around the trade show floor to peruse the industry’s latest and greatest tools and equipment, available from some of your favorite vendors.

Returning NORTHEAST Platinum Sponsor BASF always offers plenty to see and experience at their booth (#127), which will feature an opportunity to explore BASF’s Glasurit 100 Line, baslac 45 and recently introduced one-coat clear, R-M’s RMC1000.

“NORTHEAST offers BASF an exciting opportunity to connect with our customers and the local industry,” according to Marketing Services Manager Tina Nelles. “We’re excited to share BASF’s latest innovation and demonstrate how this can help shops. Stop by to meet Jonathan Goolsby, and we’ll also have Goolsby Customs’ 1969 Mustang on display, which debuted at SEMA 2023 where it made it into the top 12 in SEMA Battle of the Builders!”

Gold Show Sponsor Reliable Automotive Equipment (RAE) has a larger booth (#521) at this year’s show, allowing them to “display many products for the industry’s future needs – RAE is the future,” says Reliable’s Dave Gruskos, a longtime collision expert who also appears on this year’s educational slate. He adds, “We are looking forward to reuniting with our old friends and colleagues. NORTHEAST is New Jersey’s premier event of the year, and we are excited to showcase our products.”

Second-time exhibitor Matthew’s Auto Supplies also expanded their presence at this year’s show, and this AASP/NJ member signed on as a Gold Show Sponsor. If you’re looking to keep your guard up, plan to stop by booth #124 for a demonstration of their cold panel replacement procedures and OEM duplicated seam sealer techniques. The supplier will also be showcasing its consulting and body shop inventory management services.

“NORTHEAST offers a great opportunity to talk to many shop owners and repair professionals, and we’re looking forward to another year of high attendance,” shares Rick Haas (Matthew’s Auto Supplies). “As an exhibitor, connecting with our customers is vital, but NORTHEAST also boasts an impressive educational program with many well-known industry trainers, so I’m planning to attend some classes to obtain the continuing education that will position me to help my customers even more as shops contend with the ongoing profit margin erosion plaguing their businesses.”

Silver Sponsor Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists is a first-time exhibitor that is looking to engage more with the industry. “When we began attending various industry events around the country last year, it was apparent that we had been missing a lot of networking opportunities, including the untapped potential to work with associations, like AASP. NORTHEAST encompasses a chance to expand both of those initiatives and is also a great place for us to bring in our regional teams to meet with local customers,” states Dale Huckabee (Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists). “Relationships are key, so we’re excited to mix and mingle with the regional presence at the show!”

Visit them at booth #432 to grab a special St. Patrick’s Day rubber duck, available only at NORTHEAST. “We like to have a little fun as we engage and participate,” Huckabee explains, adding, “We’re hoping to benefit from the educational aspect of NORTHEAST. Although we’re a vendor, we undergo a lot of the same struggles that body shops encounter, and we want to learn more about their challenges so we can determine where we fit in their timeline and do what we can to expedite things.”

Struggling to find fresh talent for your facility? Slip by booth #232 to check out first-time NORTHEAST exhibitor,, to learn more about how they can help you. “Being a startup, our focus has been on finding effective avenues to introduce BodyShopJobs to the automotive collision industry at large,” Diane Benting explains why she decided to exhibit at NORTHEAST 2024. “I’m most eager to meet new people and establish valuable connections during the event.”

From start-ups to hard-hitters, NORTHEAST’s exhibition floor offers a little of everything for everyone. “I love NORTHEAST mainly because we have more time to interact with our family of customers,” offers Tim Morgan of long-time exhibitor Spanesi Americas. “At the same time, the show offers educational content that is the best in the industry, brought to a local level. Spanesi Americas is proud to be a part of it.”

Looking to rub elbows with some of the heavy-weights of the automotive world? Stop by Gold Sponsor AkzoNobel’s booth (#601) to check out the two cars they’ll have on display and meet Dave Kindig, star of MotorTrend TV’s Bitchin’ Rides, who will be signing autographs on Friday and Saturday. But keep your eyes peeled because you never know who else may make a celebrity appearance at NORTHEAST! (Explore the floor plan for this year’s show at

The second main event, the NORTHEAST educational slate, will get repairers warmed up to throw those jabs, crosses and a few undercuts to go the distance in your shop all year long (see the full agenda on page 28).

On Thursday, March 14, Round One precedes the actual show with an exclusive early training event: a “Know Your Numbers Financial Workshop,” presented by Dave Luehr’s Elite Body Shop Academy (register at

Round Two starts on Friday morning with two special Collision Advice workshops, before the evening’s training kicks off at 5:30pm with a presentation by Chuck Olsen of NORTHEAST Education Sponsor AirPro Diagnostics (found on the show floor at booth #317). 

During “Adopt, Adapt, Advance: ADAS Dos & Don’ts,” Olsen will review “new systems and the next level of autonomous. More ADAS features are coming into play, so we’ll be taking a look at some changes to make sure repairers are aware of what’s coming. Attendees can expect to walk away with updates on technology and a better grasp of how to assess a vehicle to determine what needs to be done and the best path to accomplish it.

“Different shops approach ADAS calibrations in a number of ways, from shops that specialize in all makes and models to those that sublet some or all calibrations, so we’ll also discuss how to make that determination,” Olsen continues, offering a spoiler: “The biggest ‘don’t’ is DON’T return a vehicle to the customer without all the necessary calibrations being done!”

In “The Future of Certification: Finding the Best Fit For Your Shop,” Gruskos promises, “Attendees will be walking away with a very clear understanding of where the industry is heading and how to stay ahead. Shops need certifications for pure survival of their business. Certifications are here to stay and will continue to be necessary in the future.”

Jeramy Holloway and Alex Stapleton of Spanesi Americas will share tips on “Put the Brakes on Passing Defects in the Repair Process.” 

“If you’re working in a repair facility that has processes, you have a baseline for what happens on every car that flows through the shop; you’re following certain standards,” Holloway notes. “Before the car moves onto the next phase of the repair – from intake to repair planning, body, paint, reassembly, etc. – it needs to pass a quality control inspection to ensure it achieved the necessary condition, and that ultimately puts the brakes on passing a problem down the line because you have a chance to resolve it during the right stage of the process.”

Why is that important? “When shops understand how to implement a quality control process, it increases throughput, so they are more efficient, make more money and enjoy higher customer satisfaction; it helps them improve their business on many different levels,” Holloway explains. “Passing a defect causes many problems, the biggest being if the defect makes it to the end of the process, all the way to the highway, you end up in a bad situation with the customer or worse – in front of a grand jury!”

Ding ding ding! Round Three commences at 8am on Saturday with “The Latest in Electric Vehicle Technology and Repair,” presented by Jeff Poole (I-CAR). “The presence of EVs and hybrid vehicles continues to grow in our driving community, thus increasing the opportunities these vehicles will be in your shops more often,” Poole says. “Understanding the parts, systems and safety aspects of working with and around these vehicles will help mitigate issues and lead to more successful repair scenario outcomes. 

“This session will provide insights into many facets of the EV world: understanding the technologies, systems, risks and what we need to consider at different stages from vehicle intake, initial inspection and high-voltage shut down to an understanding of electric shock potential and multi-layer safety implementation. Also included is an overview of special tools, equipment and specialized testing methods,” he continues. “It’s an electrifying experience; come realize your future potential!”

A second I-CAR class, “Ford Collision Repair Workshop,” will be taught by Ford’s Gerry Bonanni on Saturday afternoon. “Basically, this workshop covers all aspects of Ford collision repair,” Bonanni notes. “I will go into the workshop manuals, how to find information and then talk about specific vehicles and their construction and repair. The takeaway for the student is to help understand how Ford develops repairs, where and how the info works, and hopefully, what they learn will help them repair our vehicles better.”

The day’s agenda features two groundbreaking panel discussions. During the first, AASP/NJ President Ken Miller (821 Collision; North Haledon) will be joined by Josh McFarlin (AirPro Diagnostics), Nick Barbera (Union Collision; Union), Paul Sgro (Lee’s Garage; West Long Branch) to discuss “Getting More ADAS in Your Shop: What Does It Take?”

McFarlin explains why this topic is so important: “A quick review of the data available from the information providers makes it clear that while the needle is moving in the right direction when it comes to ADAS calibrations, we still have a long way to go. There are still far too many people in our industry operating in denial by not accepting that the reasons to require a calibration are only growing and that a light on the dash, or a DTC, or a message on the display panel are hardly ever the reason.

“Just as important, this is not something that should be treated as a problem to solve,” he adds. “It should be viewed as an opportunity to work into your process and seen as additional revenue to collect in exchange for the proper repair of the vehicle. Learning from a group of panelists that are already in some stage of implementation when it comes to doing calibrations in house can be invaluable. This is not an all-or-nothing scenario; there are many ways to step into this work and to find a way to make it fit your business.”

Sgro agrees. “With today’s cars and technology, in order to ensure a safe and proper repair, it’s important that shops know what types of calibrations exist, what codes mean and how important it is. Our panel will help attendees better understand how important it is to know these details prior to and at completion of a repair for the client’s safety.”

“ADAS is one of the most important components of the vehicle,” Barbera tacks on. “It is important that calibrations are done – and even more important that they are done correctly. The technology is constantly changing, and it is up to the repair facility to stay on top of these items. I hope attendees will gain a fresh look at the ADAS industry and learn from other shops as to how to properly identify, perform and ultimately get financially compensated for these procedures.”

Later that afternoon, “Survivor: Exploring Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade & Beyond” will teach shops how to roll with the punches and come out swinging as Miller returns with Gruskos, Collision Advice’s Mike Anderson, Frank Terlep (Opus IVS) and AASP/MA Executive Director Lucky Papageorg to explore a variety of topics that shops will need to pay attention to if they want to be successful in the future.

“That future will be daunting for the ill-informed, but it will be extremely exciting and prosperous for those who prepare for it,” Papageorg predicts. “Seeing that list of fellow panelists, I am excited to hear what they have to say and to add what I can from what I have been hearing and observing. Attendees at this seminar will walk away with information and insight that will allow them to make future business plans based on a sound foundation of information and an understanding of what the future holds in the collision repair industry. This is going to be a great panel discussion!”

Both panels will be moderated by veteran industry journalist Joel Gausten, who acknowledges, “When industry members see things like ADAS, EVs or certification in a panel title or description, they may be tempted to roll their eyes and think, ‘Been there, done that.’ But in reality, a panel they attended on these topics last year, last month or even last week is NOT the same panel they will experience at NORTHEAST. This industry is changing in overwhelming ways, and I guarantee that our panel discussions at NORTHEAST will offer something different. There are too many things happening in this industry right now for anyone to think they already know everything on a given subject.

“Frankly, I’m not interested in repeating the same old industry conversations,” he promises. “What can attendees expect to walk away with from these panels? Well, that’s entirely up to them! I encourage panelists and attendees to come in with an ‘out-of-the-box’ attitude and a willingness to be engaged, ask questions and be open to different perspectives. If attendees don’t feel the panels have provided them with what they need by the time the Q&A portion comes around, I urge them to add something to the mix. NORTHEAST isn’t a classroom – it’s a community. The show exists to provide a service to this industry, and everybody benefits when everybody contributes.”

Don’t expect to be saved by the bell just yet! Round 4 on Sunday includes another knockout seminar with Anderson as well as an informative look at everything shops need to know about planning to retire or sell their business with Jason Marx (Mandelbaum Barrett PC) during “Picking the Right Lane to Pass Along Your Automotive Repair Business.”

“Most shop owners do what they do every day; they run their business and provide services to the public. They’re not necessarily in the business with the intention of transitioning it to someone else, but at some point, they are going to want to retire or sell, so it’s important to learn about the different approaches to succession planning, since this can have an impact on their current goals,” Marx explains. “What will it look like when you decide to get out? Will you sell the business to an employee, pass it to your children or something else? It’s important to understand how your business will be valued and go about it in a strategic way to minimize tax exposure, maximize value and enjoy a smooth and seamless transition as you pass the business along to the next generation of leaders. And these are topics you don’t want to start thinking about when it’s time to retire – you need to consider your exit strategy as soon as you start your business, so if you don’t have a plan in place, it’s time to map one out!”

Although the co-main events are likely to take up most of your time, NORTHEAST 2024 pulls no punches when it comes to its undercard either! Whether you’re a spectator or a prizefighter, you’ll want to pop over to booth #649 to check out the Second Annual Bodywork Bowl (flip to page 25 for the inside scoop).

At 2pm on Saturday, swing by AASP/NJ’s booth (#1) to join the association for its Fourth Annual Young Technicians Award Presentation as two deserving emerging repairers or painters are presented with $5,000 worth of tools, equipment and products to help them establish themselves in the industry.

Interested in winning a purse of your own? NORTHEAST 2024 offers plenty of opportunities for attendees to win a number of prizes. Pre-registering for the show provides a chance to win $500 in NORTHEAST Dollars to spend on the show floor (10 winners will be chosen at random over the course of the weekend), and those who obtain a VIP ticket from their preferred vendor prior to the show can participate in a drawing to win a $500 gift card! Winners must be present. 

With so much to learn and so many ways to advance your business, there’s no reason to “take it on the chin;” register now at to enhance your knowledge and acquire all you need to go blow for blow with the best of ‘em!

Want more? Check out the March 2024 issue of New Jersey Automotive!