Those working to bring mandatory certification of collision shops in Ontario say there are promising signs on the horizon… and similar regulations for mechanical shops might not be far behind.
The Automotive Industries Association of Canada has been meeting with officials within the provincial government to explain why certifying collision shops would be in the best interest of consumers.
While discussions have stalled somewhat in recent months, they’re expected to heat up again this fall, with a decision on the matter possibly coming as early as next year.
“There has been a lot of activity over the last two years. Covid-19 hit and put us on the back-burner. But it looks like it is coming back,” said Steve Leal, president and CEO of Fix Network World and an AIA director. “I think it is one of the top priorities of the Ontario government and we’re hoping that in the fourth quarter we’ll be able to continue progressing the issue, and get it over the finish line.”
Speaking on “Curbside Chat” an AIA web presentation hosted by association chairman Susan Hitchon, Leal said the issue is on a lot of people’s radar.
“How it will look in the end is still to be determined. Once they agree, there will still be a lot of work to do, but at least we’ll be on our way,” he said. “I believe it could be implemented in 2021.”
Hitchon told her web audience that a recent AIA survey showed clear indication that association members would support regulations or mandatory certification that raise automotive repair shop competence.
AIA president J.F. Champagne told CARS magazine that targeting mandatory certification in Ontario made sense given the provincial government’s stated priority of making auto insurance more affordable in that province.
“The Ford government has been clear about finding ways to reduce insurance costs for Ontarians,” he said. “We are pointing out that personal injuries are no longer the largest cost contributing to high insurance premiums. It has been matched by the cost of vehicle damage. In fact, damage to vehicles is the fastest growing part of the equation.”
He said one of the best ways of controlling the fast-rising cost of repairs is by making sure shops are able to fix vehicles correctly the first time. The government has been very receptive, he said.
“It will be up to the government to work with stakeholders and industry to develop the best model,” he said. “Ultimately, it will be a form of identifying best practices and auditing them in a way that allows a shop to receive confirmation that they do, in fact, meet minimum standards for training, tooling and business practices.”
It wouldn’t be a precedent in Ontario, where other industries, like electrical contracting and real estate, already require government certification. AIA believes other provinces are also ready to consider mandatory certification. In fact, some have already made moves in that direction.
“There are signals that they are requiring shops to comply with some set of standards that includes training, tooling and things like this,” he said. “We are seeing movement in this direction in the other provinces, and it is only a matter of time, I believe, before we see an open call for certification.”
Although there could be costs to shops, it would be nominal compared to the routine business expense associated with keeping up with vehicle technology, Champagne said.
“We often say to people that, yes, there will be a minimal cost for the certification and the audit process, but for some shops that have fallen behind on technology, the greater investment by far is in upgrading their tools and skills,” he said. “For some shops that might be a very large price to bear but we have to provide reassurances to the consumer that we have the skills to fix the cars of today and tomorrow.”
He said the campaign is really about ensuring a minimal threshold of entry for the people who want to fix cars.
“I believe service providers want a level playing field. That’s the message we’re hearing,” he said. “They want a system that’s fair and recognizes the excellence of shops that make the proper investments.”
Mandatory certification could also play a role in ensuring that mechanical shops have the proper credentials to meet vehicle security protocols. He believes certification could be a positive outcome for repair shops because cars are highly connected and very challenging to diagnose.
“How will we ensure that mechanical shops are properly equipped, trained, and credentialed to access sensitive data in a secure way? Certification provides a pathway,” he said.