The Automotive Service Association (ASA), billed as the world’s largest association representing independent automotive professionals, has elected its first Canadian director.
John Cochrane, owner of Cochrane Automotive, an 11-bay shop in Toronto’s west end, has joined the national board of directors for the Texas-based group as a general director.
Cochrane is no stranger to public service. He’s currently a director of the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario (AARO), and has served as chairman of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA).
He believes independent automotive repair shops have a great deal to gain from closer interaction with each other – something he will pursue in his new role with ASA.
“We really need to make a homogenous industry,” he told CARS magazine. “There are ASA shops in Canada but there has never been an official collaboration between ASA and the various Canadian associations. That’s my desire, and that’s (ASA mechanical chairman) Donny Seyfer’s desire too.”
He said he has been impressed by ASA’s lobbying efforts on national issues in the United States.
“It is really impressive. They’re totally focused on improving market conditions for the independent service provider,” he said. “Part of the reason for that becomes obvious when you see who’s been winning the war for the repairs. The car dealers have improved their position in recent years, keeping vehicles in their repair bays for another full year. That equates to billions of lost dollars for the aftermarket.”
As the founder of the LinderTech North annual training event in Toronto, he’s also a tireless promoter of continual skills improvement for both technicians and shop managers.
Cochrane says he’d like to champion a strategy that would bring high-level ASA-type training to Canada.
“I’d like to see week-long training programs that are industry wide, twice a year, with presentations from government, labor boards, CASIS – things that every garage needs to be up to date on,” he said. “There should be management training as well as technical training. There needs to be a suite of options to suit the needs of shop owners, service advisors, and technicians. And we have to open it up to a variety of trainers, some of whom may see each other as competitors. I’m sorry, but we have to open it up for the good of the industry.”
Most of all, he’d like to see parts manufacturers and distributors support cross-platform training.
“I know they all have their training silos. I don’t want to infringe on their strategies. But we need training that is supported by industry, designed to help shops grow. It should be the kind of event where everyone rips their badge off and works for the good of the industry.”
After discussions with shop owners across the country, he knows there’s an appetite for quality training.
“I feel like the planets are finally starting to align on this. In meeting after meeting, with associations like AARO, ASA, NAPA, and CAA, and in talking with the community, some great ideas are evolving. It is starting to gel. That’s how I feel.”
And though he’s been in the game for a long time now, he’s not ready to stop fighting now for a stronger independent aftermarket.
“As long as I’m healthy, I have no reason to slow down,” he says. “I totally enjoy it.”