The Exhaust Systems Professional Association (ESPA) had its roots in the USA where a group of independent muffler shop operators in the 1970s banded together to be able to offer a national lifetime warranty program on exhaust repairs.The US trade association they formed also proved invaluable in representing the exhaust industry in discussions with regulators over in-service exhaust emissions regulations as catalytic converters had already been introduced there.

ESPA USA was supported and managed by an industry publication, Exhaust News, which was targeted at the then growing number of muffler shops in the USA. ESPA was unique in that muffler shop operators had total control over the association, with manufacturers and suppliers restricted to associate membership only.

1980-EXHAUST-MAGAZINE-AUSTRALIA-FOLLOWS-SUITBy the mid 1980s Australia also had a similar publication to Exhaust News after Noel Wynn founded AutoMedia and began publishing a trade magazine which was initially called simply Exhaust but later changed its title to Exhaust & Undercar and more recently to Undercar Review so as to keep pace with ever-changing industry trends.Prior to this Noel had been elected to the Governing Council of MTA-NSW in 1976 and he was instrumental in the formation of the Exhaust Systems Specialists Division of MTA-NSW in the early 1980s.

Soon after this several states were moving towards adopting a model specific (which is now called signature) approach to exhaust noise regulations and this demanded a united national reaction from the exhaust industry. But the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) had not been formed at this stage and the state bodies were not in full agreement on the matter anyway.

1986-JAY-DUGAS-ACTION-REQUIREDOn top of this strict exhaust emission regulations, including the use of catalytic converters, were being introduced in Australia so it made sense to take a leaf from the American’s book and a similar national association with the same name as their’s, ESPA (Exhaust Systems Professional Association), was formed in Australia in 1986. This was done with the full support of ESPA USA and its then President, Jay Dugas from New Orleans. Jay remains on AUPA Australia’s Advisory Panel today.ESPA Australia was modelled along the same lines as its US counterpart but with a more open approach to buying groups and franchised shops, as lifetime warranties were not such an issue in Australia. Although, ESPA Australia’s Articles of Association did limit the number of National Committee members that can be from any group of associated shops to one representative at any one time so as to prevent dominant control by a party of members.

The foundation members that vetted the Articles of Association were:
Neil Fillery from South Australia, Richard Bond from Queensland, Ian Lampl from the ACT, Paul Peak from New South Wales, and Rowland Tidd from Victoria.

Noel Wynn was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to run the business side of the association and this appointment has been ratified each year since by the ruling National Committee (Board of Directors). The CEO’s duties are wide and varied including the supply of a full-time office for the association.

Whilst the day-to-day running of the association is the responsibility of the CEO the elected National Committee, headed by the President, made the final decisions. This National Committee was made up of only retail muffler shop Operator Members. Product manufacturers, non-exhaust specialists, industry suppliers and supporters could join as Associate Members. The National Committee had the power to appoint suitable Advisory Members to assist in its decision making process.

By the 1990s most muffler shops in America had evolved into undercar service shops and ESPA USA came under pressure to change its format to service this expanded industry. ESPA USA was then dissolved and a new association called AUTO (Automotive Undercar Trade Organization) was formed in its place. AUTO USA and ESPA Australia then established an affiliation agreement and the two associations had a very satisfactory working arrangement that benefited both associations.ESPA had also formed affiliations with the New Zealand Brake & Clutch Specialists Association (NZB&CSA) and the Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers (IAME) plus it networks with other trade associations, both in Australia and worldwide.

ESPA’s focus had always been industry-wide in establishing good working relationships between product manufacturers, distributors and installers. Legislative changes still threaten the industry’s very existence and ESPA played a vital role in actively lobbying to protect the aftermarket exhaust industry from over zealous legislation.

2009-ESPA-COMMITTEE-UNDERCAR-RECOGNISEDTo reflect industry changes ESPA recognised in 2002 that it needed to establish a direction for the future and adopted a mission statement, which said: “ESPA is a non-profit, member driven trade association providing member benefits, information resources, and legislative representation to exhaust systems and undercar service specialists.”In 2009 a streamlining of ESPA’s operations brought about a reduction in the size of the National Committee (Board of Directors) to just include the Executive Committee members comprising of the President, Vice-president and Treasurer. The existing National Committee members were then added to the existing Advisory Panel.

At ESPA’s 2010 AGM the CEO was given the task of compiling an information manual for use by members covering relevant industry regulations and technical data. The Muffler Shop Manual became a reality in 2011 and was distributed to members nationally. This was an important step forward for the association as all exhaust specialist members now have a vital reference guide to refer to.

2011-ESPA-AGM-DECISIONS-MADEAt ESPA’s 2011 AGM the process of updating ESPA into a wider scope as an undercar service industry association was commenced to secure the association’s future. The same process happened to the original ESPA in the USA some years before.At the following 2012 AGM ESPA formally dissolved itself into the new Automotive Undercar Professional Association (AUPA) which retained the existing membership and management structure.

2013-UNDERCAR-CONFERENCE-EVOLUTION-COMPLETEDThe Automotive Undercar Professional Association (AUPA) is a not-for-profit, member-driven national trade association providing membership benefits, information resources and legislative representation to repair shop operators specialising in one or more fields of undercar servicing. Associate membership is also provided for industry suppliers and supporters.The Automotive Undercar Professional Association is based on the same principles that the Exhaust Systems Professional Association (ESPA) was established on in 1986 as a national trade association for specialist repairers.

The new name and broader membership scope of the new association has provided the foundation for future development and effectiveness of what was originally a single focus association. Specialist services provided to exhaust specialists in the past will continue under the new structure.

A new set of Articles of Association based on ESPA’s proven format and past operations were adopted which retain and recognise ESPA’s 27 year history and past contributions. The new Articles of Association were vetted by ESPA’s Executive Committee and a special undercar industry Advisory Panel prior to being submitted for registration.

By using ESPA’s existing membership and resources as a starting point the new association had a solid base to develop from on day-one of its operations.

The Automotive Undercar Professional Association (AUPA) is now the next chapter in the evolution of undercar servicing in Australia.