15 Minutes With Mike Swift

Kesling Photography

If there’s one thing that Mike Swift is passionate about, it’s auto recycling. Maybe it’s because he grew up in the business, watching his grandfather and working alongside his father. Or maybe it’s because he enjoys building a vibrant, state-of-the-art facility as he and his brother Steven Swift have done at Swift’s Trails End Auto Recycling in Des Moines, Iowa.

Either way, Swift is about to take that passion to the next level, as he assumes the ARA presidency at the annual convention in Charlotte, N.C. in October. In preparation for that moment, we spent 15 minutes with Swift to get his perspective on what’s ahead.


What is your primary goal as ARA president?

      When Randy Reitman was president, he wanted all recyclers to be members of ARA’s Certified Auto Recyclers (CAR). I will continue to carry that torch. In Iowa, it’s mandatory for our members to be I-CARE certified. I think it’s important to have this on a national level to set us apart from junkyards.


How do you plan to achieve that goal?

We will let recyclers know that ARA is here to help your facility get certified. We’ll put together a team to walk you through the process so you’re not intimidated. They will help you complete paperwork, promote Green recycled parts, etc. I think we can easily get 75 percent of our members certified in the next few years. This will help open doors that we haven’t even seen yet.


You said in 2012 that you were passionate about legislative issues. What are some of the biggest legislative issues facing the auto recycling industry today?

Getting that OEM VIN data could be the most important part of the puzzle for now and in the future. The door has been closed for so long, and unfortunately, it’s the injuries and deaths that opened it. But ARA is keeping it open, explaining to Congress why recyclers need access to this information. We’ve opened some eyes and ears.

NMVTIS (National Motor Vehicle Title Information System) is still a big issue. There’s a lack of enforcement, which is a problem. We have recyclers bringing possible solutions, such as anyone who buys the title of a salvage car has to have a unique number. But enforcement is key.


Why do ARA members, and all auto recyclers for that matter, need to be involved in legislative issues?

Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth once said, “If you don’t tell these elected people what is wrong, who will?” We as recyclers need to tell the same story about the hurdles we are facing. ARA is that unified voice.


The auto industry has been plagued with recalls recently. Why is access to OEM part information so important to auto recyclers?

OEM is important, not only for recall data and safety but for accuracy. If we can’t sell a more accurate part, we’re never going to be a serious player. We speak this Hollander language. Now they’re making cars with 20 different mirrors. We can’t keep up by looking at them anymore. If part sales are how we’re going to make our living, then we need to be more precise.


What other issues are facing the industry today?

The price of scrap is having a huge effect on the industry. I’ve been to Wisconsin, Nebraska and Detroit, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better.

There’s also air bag litigation, used tires, end-of-life litigation and stormwater and environmental issues, OSHA safety issues, and more. Just when we think we have one issue figured out, we’re hit with another hurdle.


What can ARA members expect from your presidency?

I still inventory cars and sell parts. I wear a million hats. In other words, I understand the issues facing recyclers, and I will represent them with their voice.


You have been active in the industry for years as an IAR member, IAR President, ARA Regional Director and an ARA Executive Committee member, how do you balance this while still running your business?

I’m fortunate to have a wife and kids who understand the passion that I have for the industry - and a great staff to support me. I also have some wonderful mentors and friends, amazing people in our industry I can call anytime for advice and help. For that, I am forever grateful.

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