An auto service centre in Canada’s Silicon Valley North, otherwise known as Kanata, Ont., is the country’s first shop to be accredited to the new Motorist Assurance Program.
With automobiles being such sophisticated and complex products, it is fitting that a shop in the high tech capital of the nation should be the standard bearer in a program that aims to strengthen relations between motorists and repair businesses.
Glenn Guilbault, who runs a Petro-Canada Certigard business, said he is proud, happy and honoured to be leading the business chosen to be the first MAP-authorized service centre.
These are busy days for the veteran automotive service professional who runs the eight-bay operation.
His shop was recently renovated which included the construction of a self service fuel and convenience store. Prior to that it was a full service facility.
The market in Kanata is growing swiftly. Guilbault first opened for business in 1973, and at one time had the place to himself.
But competition has grown swiftly, with more than 60 new service bays opened in recent years by the likes of Canadian Tire, Kanata Ford, Wal-Mart, Mr. Transmission, a rapid lube and a muffler shop, among.
Guilbault knows what it takes to stay competitive, which includes membership in the MAP program.
MAP’s mission statement is to strengthen relations between the motorist and the automotive service and repair industry through education of the motorist and service provider, and through the creation of industry standards.
With 27 years in the business, Guilbault has strived to do right by his customers, and at the same time keep an open mind to new initiatives that offer the potential to make further improvements to business relations.
For Guilbault, who employs three Class A technicians, the best thing about MAP is the standardized procedures and structure for conducting business.
“If everyone takes the same consistent approach, then the public will gain greater confidence. “Not everything can be put into categories and defined, but many things can be,” said Guilbault.
Consumers deserve more up front information about all sorts of issues concerning auto service, including diagnostic charges, specific procedures and other services, according to Guilbault.
“The openness with which you approach the job and inform the consumer can lead to greater trust and confidence in the trade. With time, people will recognize the value of the MAP certification,” said Guilbault.
After attending the meeting to introduce details about MAP in Ottawa, Guilbault was convinced the initiative had value. He said he sent in his application right away. But it was only the first step in gaining accreditation to the program.
Each business that applies for membership is carefully scrutinized and evaluated to ensure it meets all the criteria necessary to meet the standards established by the program.
In essence, the MAP program is a response by the industry to the chronic crises of confidence that consumers display towards the auto service business.
The auto service industry is constantly being questioned about its ethics and methods of doing business, which gave rise to the MAP program in the United States several years ago.
In Canada, several major corporations and industry associations founded MAP Canada under license from the U.S. group, called the Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association.
MAP’s primary purpose is two-fold: to establish a set of standardized technical procedures for shops to follow and to educate consumers about what to expect from Map-accredited facilities.
MAP Canada members such as Guilbault agree to adopt and adhere to specific standards of service that require members to utilize uniform inspection and communications standards.
Within MAP there is also a method for the customer to achieve satisfaction should those standards not be met.
The industry has been an easy target for bad publicity and suffers with a poor image. But “You can’t change it by getting upset or reacting to bad publicity. Positive programs like MAP have to be reinforced. It’s a low-keyed, positive approach.”
“Any program like this takes time to build. First of all there’s an awareness period. Then customers and the trade itself have to start trusting in it, and then they have to start using it,” said Guilbault.
As one of the earliest members of the Canadian Automobile Association’s (CAA) Approved Auto Repair Centres 20 years ago, he is well aware of the need to “reinforce and strive to reassure the public and to prove that we offer top class service.”
Guilbault was also an early supporter of ASE certifications and had all four of his technicians certified in the early days of the program in Canada five years ago.
“You can never stand still. When something new comes along you have to take a look at it, evaluate its worthiness and decide whether to take part,” he said.
Competition is intense. When sales drop your overheads don’t drop automatically.
New apprentices face a real impediment to membership in the trade by being unable to deduct the cost of tools from income tax. It’s bad for technicians as well.
It can cost $5,000 in tools to enter the trade. “I can’t see any trade, other than technicians, who can’t write off their tools. Most of the time technicians are employed by small business that can’t afford to subsidize the tools they need,” said Guilbault. SSGM