Auto Service World
News   September 29, 2014   by CARS Magazine

Consumer focus groups tell industry “safety comes first”

From across various age groups, genders and the country, the message from Canadian participants was clear. Safety is the key factor influencing the decision to invest in vehicle service and repair. And, despite research to the contrary, an...

From across various age groups, genders and the country, the message from Canadian participants was clear. Safety is the key factor influencing the decision to invest in vehicle service and repair. And, despite research to the contrary, an overwhelming majority believe they are conducting the maintenance needed to keep their car or truck safe on the road.

This past summer, the Automotive Industry Association of Canada (AIA) and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) partnered to run a series of consumer focus groups in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Conducted by Quorus Consulting Group, a Canadian market research consulting company with expertise in both qualitative and quantitative research, the focus groups examined the vehicle service and maintenance habits of Canadians. 

The eight focus group sessions, made up of eight attendees, were two-hours long with participants providing some strong take-away messages. Of crucial note, the focus group participants identified safety as a central factor when considering having repairs and maintenance done. Reliability and dependability ranked second to safety, with financial cost-savings and the environment being of much lower priority.

Despite industry market research to the contrary, almost all of the participants stated they conduct basic maintenance on a regular basis, strongly believe their own vehicle is safe and roadworthy and that other vehicle owners are equally responsible.

The 2013 Canadian Automotive Aftermarket Demand Study, produced by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants on behalf of AIA, examined Canadian spending habits around service and repair, and showed the average Canadian is underspending on vehicle maintenance and repair by $623 a year. 

“This is a distinct indicator that we have communication and education work to do as an industry. We need to better inform consumers about how regularly scheduled maintenance is essential to having a safe and reliable vehicle,” says Marc Brazeau, CEO and president, AIA Canada.  “We know Canadians believe in the importance of service and repair, we know that keeping their vehicles safe and reliable is of primary importance and we know they believe they are doing that through basic maintenance.  We simply need to provide them with better information and tools so they can make more informed decisions on what is actually needed to keep their vehicle safe on the road.”

“We need to empower consumers and provide them with more confidence in their decision-making without the added stress that vehicle owners often face when dealing with unexpected repairs,” he added.

Other take-aways include that participants are unlikely to budget for repairs, will forego a repair if they can’t afford it and that trust in their automotive service provider is of paramount importance.

In each group, participants who indicated they had a “go-to” person for their service and repair needs were extremely loyal and actively referred their provider to family and friends. However, few participants felt they had such an established relationship with their shop or technician – leading to a lack of trust and confidence in general.

“Consumers are telling us our industry needs to do a better job to gain their trust and they are cautious about government-mandated programs,” says Brazeau.  “However, they will make that investment for safety reasons. Future programs, government or industry-run, need to focus on safety, reliability and dependability; again, moving forward, investing in consumer education and awareness are integral to the future of our industry.”

The information provided through the focus groups will be used by AIA in furthering its mandate to promote, educate and represent members in all areas that impact the growth and prosperity of the industry. 

This includes Be Car Care Aware, a consumer education program for Canadians about the importance of service and repair. The program is being re-launched as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations this October.

The program will be dedicated to providing critical tools, resources and information to consumers before they arrive at the shop.

 “Through Be Car Care Aware, consumers will receive the information needed to comprehend, plan, and even foresee their vehicles’ service and repair requirements before work is required,” says Brazeau. “We will provide Canadians with the necessary knowledge to confidently decide what service and repairs must be done to ensure their vehicle is safe to drive.”

A PPT highlighting the key findings of the focus groups is available to members, and results will be presented at future regional events and division meetings.

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