Auto Service World
Feature   May 13, 2010   by CARS Magazine


AIA Celebrates John Cochrane's Commitment to the Automotive Industry by Naming Him the Winner of the 'Distinguished Service Award'

Editor’s Note: As previously reported, John Cochrane of Cochrane Automotive in Toronto was the recipient of the AIA Distinguished Service Award at the ACE Conference in Montreal recently. The following is John’s excellent acceptance speech. Enjoy!

It is an honour to be the recipient of the ‘Distinguished Service Award’ for 2010. Thank you to the academy, because to me this is just like receiving the Oscar at the academy awards. I deeply appreciate being chosen by my peers to receive this wonderful award.

I would like to take a few minutes to thank some of the people who were instrumental in helping me throughout my automotive career.

First of all, my wife Leah, best friend and business partner who keeps me focused and in the communications loop. As many of you know I am not timely in responding to email, so if you want a quick answer, email Leah and she’ll get after me.

Ashley my daughter, who has just graduated from University in Landscape Architecture and is learning to be an entrepreneur by starting her own business called North 44 Land Design. (There Ashley, I just gave you a plug so you can give out your business cards) She was very understanding when Dad was away, whether it was for training on the road, night meetings, or those business trips with customers.

The staff at Cochrane Automotive, namely Raye Brown, Peggy Li, Larry Gass and Gennaro Scamperti, have been with me for over 20 years. Without their support I would not have been able to volunteer as much time and energy to the AIA and the aftermarket industry it represents. I am also indebted to all of my staff for their continual support and hard work, especially in these tough economic times.

My late father Frank Cochrane who was also in the automotive business, and who passed on to me his passion for the industry. He was my first Mentor.

Dick Martin from General Motors who continually knocked off my rough edges during the early years as an ACDelco Distributor, to the point that I had to re-invent myself. He was also instrumental in helping me to become a qualified ACDelco technical instructor. Paul D’Aurelio and Corey Graham who I respect and who have been great supporters of Cochrane Automotive.

The people at Uni-Select….Robert Chevier, Jean Guenette, Jacques Landreville, Gilles Michaud, and Paul Durkin.

Two other special acknowledgements are to Ken Coulter and Bob Greenwood. Ken and I go back to the early days of Cochrane Automotive and throughout my career he has always supported me. Thanks Ken. Bob Greenwood has become a good friend and mentor as I believe in the basic principles of garage management he teaches and he shares my passion for the automotive industry. By the way I took my first E.K.Williams course in 1971…..and that’s before I knew Bob.

I also want to thank and acknowledge the staff of the AIA. Marc, Deborah, Scott, Therese, Mireille, and Patty who have provided me with exceptional support throughout my association with the AIA.

Another person I worked with very closely during my 4 years on the AIA Executive Committee was Ray Datt. I consider him a friend and mentor.

A special thanks to Malcolm Sissmore, Larry Raymond. John Watt, and Brad Morris. These industry icons were an immense help to me. John, thanks for being there when I need a sounding board and Malcolm I appreciate our many discussions on the industry.

I would like to now share some of my insights on the industry:

When I started in the automotive industry in the 60’s it was primarily a breakdown industry. It was not uncommon to have engine, automatic transmission and rear axle failures on a regular basis. Tune ups were done spring and fall. This consisted of points, plugs, caps, rotor, wires, pcv valves, air and gas filters etc. Lube, Oil and Filter changes were done every 90 days or 3,000 miles. This was the bread and butter of the shop. The shop saw his client at least 3 or 4 times a year.

The industry dynamics have changed radically. Let’s fast forward to 2010. The manufacturers tuneup scheduled maintenance on many vehicles has moved to 160,000 km. Points, rotors, caps, condensers, are all gone, and in many cases wires have also disappeared. That means if a person drives 20,000 km a year it is going to be 8 years before the vehicle is going to get any kind of tune-up work. This is happening on many other segments of the automobile.

Let’s look at some more changing dynamics….

Many vehicle manufacturers are providing oil life monitors which in some cases will not turn the oil service light on for upwards of 25,000 km, or once a year depending on the vehicle manufacturer. Vehicle manufacturers are using this extended life interval as a sales tool, telling their clients that they don’t require an oil change until the oil life monitor light comes on.

Our industry has been promoting 90 days or 5,000 km. lubrication and oil change service intervals in most cases, which is in direct conflict with what many vehicle manufacturers are recommending. This is eroding the credibility of the ASP. Who is the consumer going to believe, the vehicle manufacturer or the ASP.

My recommendation to industry is that we explore and develop a new criteria for vehicle maintenance through the Be Car Care Aware program, focusing on semi-annual inspection, (vs the LOF every 90 days) so that the service provider has an opportunity to inspect the vehicle every six months. This will also give the ASP a chance to council the consumer on recommended maintenance. This will have a lot to do with year, make and model. The vehicle may not get an oil change at every semiannual inspection but it will get a total vehicle inspection and the automotive shops’ clients will know they are travelling safe and secure. This will ultimately instill confidence and trust with the motoring public.

Another issue that the aftermarket and vehicle manufacturers needs to collaborate on is to lobby the government in every province to implement mandatory vehicle safety inspections to be performed yearly, tied around license renewal. The reason why it is more important now than ever before is because the vehicles that are being manufactured now have much longer service intervals, and may not see a service provider for 12 to 18 months for scheduled maintenance. This is a lot of time for a vehicle to be on the road with no safety inspection. An annual inspection will provide the shops with more stable work flow, and this in turn will provide jobbers and distributors a more even flow of parts, reducing the peaks and valleys we are seeing now. One example is February 2010. Need I say more.

As a footnote, you may not be aware that for the past several years the brine solution that is being sprayed on the roads in winter to reduce icing is made up of potassium chloride, (not sodium chloride) This solution binds itself to undercarriage parts causing brake pipes to corrode and rot out faster, and calipers and break parts to seize up prematurely. This is another safety issue, and a reason to adopt mandatory vehicle inspections. We’ll need a lot more examples and proof of this to lobby the government.

As you know I have been intimately involved in the right to repair campaign. OBDII was phased in over a 3 year period…94, 95, 96. This was the birth of flash technology on vehicles. The number of computers on a vehicle today that talk to each other simultaneously could be as high as 20. The AIA has been involved in lobbying the government and vehicle manufacturers to provide flash downloads to update these computers, service information procedures for repairs and access to factory tools.
As of May 1st, 2010 our industry will have access to the above via the Canadian Automotive Information Service Standard. Congratulations to all who worked tirelessly on this project to bring it to a successful conclusion.

The important thing that will happen after May 1st, is how does our industry embrace this milestone to communicate and educate our service providers, jobbers, distributors, and everybody in the automotive industry so we are repairing vehicles as efficiently and cost effectively as the dealer.

I’ll give you a simple example of why this is so important…

A vehicle suffers a repeat EGR valve failure. The jobber buys the part from the distributor and sends it to the service provider. The shop installs the part and this does not solve the problem. The service engine light turns on and the technician feels he has a defective valve. Another one is ordered and installed and the light comes back on. If the service provider had checked to see if the vehicle had a TSB (technical service bulletin) to solve this problem with a vehicle re-flash the vehicle would have been fixed right the first time. The jobber would then not have to go to the WD or aftermarket manufacturer for help to warranty a part that is not defective.

In many cases this is the first step the Dealer does to diagnose a problem, resulting in a happy client. The vehicle is fixed right, the first time at a fair and reasonable cost. My suggestion is that we start a task force on how to implement the new agreement so that automotive service providers can use this information to their advantage. I believe this should be a key issue for the Automotive Service Provider Council.

Fit, Form and Function….A BIG ISSUE!

Just in the last month alone, my service department has lost 20 productive hours because of aftermarket parts that did not meet fit, form and function. This would not have happened if the part had come from the OEM. The aftermarket industry has to do a better job of committing to fit, form and function. If we are not able to master this issue then the service providers will continue to buy more and more parts from the OEM. This trend is supported by Bob Greenwood’s statistics.

A solution might be to create dialogue between the SupplierJobberWD councils and the ASP council to get information on what needs to be done to fix the problem.

The technology that is coming down the pipe from vehicle manufacturers is the most exciting in decades. The aftermarket industry has always flourished because we have been able to adapt and master the challenges coming our way, because in the long run we all work together to overcome all odds.

If you thought the last ten years were fast and challenging, then the next ten are going to be mind boggling. We are going to have to deal with:
• Vehicle telematics, which will drive consumers back to the dealer
• New emerging technology around better fuel efficiency
• The impact of vehicles polluting the environment.
• By moving away from carbon based fuels we will have more sku’s to service these new forms
of propulsion.
• The disposal and recycling of old vehicles and their parts
• New emerging vehicle manufacturers

Again, my deepest heartfelt gratitude for recognizing my efforts with this wonderful and prestigious award.

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