Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2007   by J.D. Ney

Getting access to technical data

M&M Auto Service Centre is a division of BDS Fleet Service, and provides repair and maintenance services to a growing list of fleet customers in the greater Toronto area. With 26 bays and as many ...

M&M Auto Service Centre is a division of BDS Fleet Service, and provides repair and maintenance services to a growing list of fleet customers in the greater Toronto area. With 26 bays and as many technicians, M&M is a thriving service business. However, it’s president sees at least a few areas where the various industry players could be doing a better job for everyone’s sake.

After only a brief conversation with M&M Auto Service Centre president Brij Sharma, two things become very clear. One, Sharma takes his business and its continued success very seriously, and two, he’s not afraid to tell you why that is.

“Let’s talk about the increase in specialized computer technology,” says Sharma. “It’s a huge issue for us in the fleet business, because as our new business horizons increase, the corresponding increase in technical data is just not readily available.”

According to Sharma, the fleet business is unique even by aftermarket standards, in that the vehicles he deals with are brand new, relatively speaking. Depending on warranties from big North American automakers, Sharma can literally have his aftermarket shop filled with ’07 vehicles, simply by virtue of their mileage. This creates a particular problem for Sharma and his staff, as many of the aftermarket tech tools simply don’t have to be that current. “We see some huge diagnostics challenges, because fleet vehicles, like law enforcement cars will break through their service window even before the manufacturer has prepared all of the data,” he says.

Sharma says his shop does what it can to keep up, but the root of the lag in technical data does not start with his shop. “We’re as equipped as we can be, and that dampens the issue for us, but the fact is, we just can’t get the technical data fast enough. For example, we don’t have the information on all of the ’07s we’re trying to work on, and some of them have exceedingly complicated innovations,” he says. Although reluctant to mention any one brand in particular, Sharma did pass along one anecdote about a particular innovation that saw the turn signal clicker taken away from its standard relay location, and routed through the car’s entertainment/radio system, so the flasher noise actually comes through the vehicles speaker system. “When that fails, I dare you to find that wiring problem without the proper schematics,” says Sharma.

The ironic twist in Sharma’s case, is that while many aftermarket providers compete bitterly with their cross-town dealership rivals for service work, Sharma says he often ends-up problem solving for them, simply by virtue of the fact that he sees the car first. For instance, take a fleet car example like a standard police cruiser equipped Chevy Impala, and compare it to the run-of-the-mill Johnson family sedan version. Sharma, in his capacity as the fleet repair guy of choice, is probably going to see the cruiser, with its wear and tear, long before the same failings befall the Johnsons. Unfortunately, according to Sharma, this still hasn’t helped his chances of getting in on the data action.

“The manufacturers really need to let service guys do their job,” says Sharma. “The mom and pop shops that don’t want to, or can’t invest in the tech, can leave it, but with 26 bays, I want the technology, and I am willing to pay for it. The days of turning a wrench on a carburetor are gone, and shops can’t be afraid to make that investment. In fact, I think they have to. It goes a long way in creating a relationship with your customer and starts to take-away that impression that mechanics are all rip-off artists,” he says.

“I understand that some shops simply can’t afford the new technology, and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t touch the ’06s; there is no shame in saying you can’t fix the problem,” he adds. “For those of us who can, we’re all tech savvy and up on the latest specs. As a result, that data needs to be made available to us, for the benefit of everyone, the manufacturer and their clients included.”

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