Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2007   by Craig Owen, Owen Automotive Ltd, Toronto

Let’s Stop Locking Out the Independents From Training, Automotive Information

Having a service shop means you are entering into one of the most competitive businesses imaginable, particularly in a large metropolitan city such as Toronto. To keep people coming to a service shop,...

Having a service shop means you are entering into one of the most competitive businesses imaginable, particularly in a large metropolitan city such as Toronto. To keep people coming to a service shop, technicians have to keep abreast of the latest tools and technologies, and to keep their skills and training at the highest level. But that is much easier to say than it is to achieve sometimes.

Getting training on the latest equipment and tools, learning about new automotive technologies and systems, is a constant struggle. It is made even more challenging by the lack of training opportunities that exist. While some aftermarket parts companies and car manufacturers have stepped up to offer training to independent service shops, there are still some out there which are reluctant to do so. There is still too much proprietary information and knowledge out there that we as independents need to have access to but are locked out from. And our jobs will become more difficult as new vehicles start to roll off the assembly line with increased numbers of computer-controlled systems and mechanisms. If we as service providers cannot have access to the training, tools and information that is offered to the technicians working for dealers, we as independent service providers will surely find ourselves losing business.

That is why the Right-to-Repair is so important, and why more independent service providers and their technicians have to become more vocal in supporting the work being done to push the issue on Parliament Hill. But along with Right-to-Repair, we also have to ask for the OEs and car manufactures to offer training in a more timely and open fashion than many are doing right now. Both must happen at the same time, as one without the other will not work. And that training has to be hands on. Yes, there will be cost and we must be willing to pay for that training. Nothing is free, but independent service providers must be given the opportunity to get that training on an equal footing with the service technicians in dealer shops. We are all partners in this industry, and one partner should not be made to feel second-best.

Along with the Right-to-Repair issue, I also believe that as an industry must do more to educate Canadians about some of the myths about automotive repair, the most persistent and most damaging being that new automobiles must be serviced at the dealers. I’ve been a service technician in Canada and the United States for sometime, and I am now the owner of my own shop; and I’m still surprised at how many people fear that if they bring their new vehicle into independent operations, they are somehow risking their vehicle warranty. While I can patiently explain to them that their warranties are not voided by having their vehicle serviced at a certified shop by a trained and qualified mechanic, I can see there is still a lot of reluctance to do so. And while the owner trusts me and has often had years of business dealings with me, I am sometimes reluctant to force the issue because I can see how concerned they are.

I don’t believe dealers are deliberately telling their customers that warranties will be voided if they take a new vehicle to an independent service shop, but I don’t believe enough is being done to challenge that impression. That impression is making many independent service providers lose valuable business, even among long-time and loyal customers. So perhaps with Right-to-Repair, we also must push more forcefully to have customers be told by dealers and others, that warranties are not voided when customers bring a new vehicle into the shop for maintenance or repair work.