Auto Service World
Feature   June 3, 2013   by CARS Magazine

Whats on your mind?

We received lots of comments from respondents to our Next-Step Survey. They didn't fit in the magazine, but we read every one and have sifted through them for nuggets of gold. Theyre reprinted here so you can get a sense of what is on everybodys mind.


The results of our Next-Step Survey have been collected and analyzed in our June issue. (If you haven’t received it in the mail yet, you can read it online right now.) What you won’t find there, however, are all the comments that were submitted by our survey respondents.

We’ve collected all the comments, though, and sifted through them for nuggets of gold.  And we’re reprinting them here so you can get a sense of what is on everybody’s mind.

The comments were divided into seven basic different groups:

You’ll find a wide range of opinion and sentiment here. If anything you read makes you want to submit a reply of your own, why not send it to the magazine as a letter to the editor. Send it in an email to allan@canadiantechnician.ca.  Or you can leave a comment below this article.  Please include your name and shop!

Here are the survey comments. Happy reading!
 
Association

We need a national Technician’s Forum to hear everyone’s views, concerns, and ideas. We should also host a “Tech Rally” for everyone in the automotive profession.  —College instructor, Ontario

All independent shops should be members of an association.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Business owners need a forum where they can encourage one another.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Establishing a real professional technician association would be helpful. The current associations are more for shop owners than technicians.  —Shop owner, British Columbia

Get shop owners to come together in groups to support one another and raise their standards in a national association with local groups.  —Shop owner, Alberta

I think there must be a common ground between all business owners, We need to promote each other’s strengths.  —Shop manager, Ontario

We need one association for all of Canada. No more local or regional associations. No splitting of any kind. We all need to adhere to one set of rules.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Union!  —Technician, Ontario

We need a unified industry.  —Shop owner, Alberta

We need an organization or union to guide us, as a group, to bring the government, shops, and consumers up to where we should be! We have many challenges: extremely low wages, tool investments with poor income tax rewards, continuous training at our own expense (and on our own time sometimes), no pension, and an overall poor working conditions. We need to make changes today! I feel as a tech for 15 years I would join a union in a second if it showed leadership and a strong overall desire to work for the tech, not the shop! We need to change this trade fast because we won’t have any apprentices in the future! Too many leave for better wages all the time! The only ones that stay can’t find anything better!  —Technician, Ontario

This is a good start. We need to fix things at the top first, build a strong foundation, have unity so we are recognized as a strong organization, then get to work with enforcement and building a better industry to bring new talent into.  —Shop owner, British Columbia

We techs are our own worst enemies. We need to organize and negotiate wages and benefits, Canada-wide, and all at the same time.  —Technician, British Columbia

 
 

Business Practices

Access to lines of credit and equipment loans at reasonable cost. The biggest problems in our industry is that most independent shops are underfinanced. The banks have no interest in supporting our industry.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Course on professionalism between techs and facilities. (Ego is the main problem with techs. “I am the only good tech,” etc.) Bad mouthing of shops (in a lot of cases, it is the customer not the work done or not done. We need to identify problem clients, not problem techs or problem facilities. Stop tow truck companies making commission deals with shops. Tow truck companies or facilities make deals for tows – even when the owner says where it should be towed to. This increases the owner’s bill and focuses again on being a dishonest industry. —Technician, Ontario

Flat rate needs to be abolished, primarily at the dealership level. Warranty time allowances are insulting and penalize the tech. Let’s see a revamping of the pay structure. A straight hourly rate for all and let the owners and corporations take the loss. This said by a Red Seal ASE master tech with 34 years in the trade. Bitter? Yes. Whiner? No.  —Technician, Saskatchewan

 

Have better benefits for people that stand on their feet for up to 10 hours a day. —Shop manager, Ontario

I can’t believe how many licensed techs look down on lubers! I was a luber, and wanted to continue learning. I worked with many knowledgeable young men and women who knew at what mileage or time interval vehicles needed to have fluids replaced. At the full service garage where I work now, we almost never change fluids on the vehicle other than oil. “I don’t believe in doing that,” is what I was told, over and over until I gave up trying to make my shop more money. It’s true I can’t replace a head gasket yet, but as a luber I can interact with the customer, enter info in a POS work order or under a car and I know which make, model, and year needed which fluid replaced based on manufacturer’s recommendation. And I could sell the customer on services, or have customers follow my recommendation to see a full-service garage. —Apprentice, Ontario

I haven’t been in the trade for too long. I know I want better working conditions, fair pay, and the ability to advance in my career. I love what I do. I know if we all participate we can shape a better industry.  —Technician, Ontario

I see the abuse of the flat-rate system in this trade. It only seems to benefit manufacturers and dealers. Dollars seem to be going overseas and not in pockets of Canadians.  —Technician, Ontario

I would like to see a code of ethics that includes something about shops slagging each other. This is the primary reason the public distrusts the industry… and it’s rampant!  —Shop manager, British Columbia

Inspections of vehicle should be the same at all repair and service shops, so consumers get the same report at any shop they go.  —Shop managers, Ontario

Labour laws should be taught to apprentices so they know their rights. The current laws should be enforced and companies violating these laws should be dealt with to the full extent of the law.  —Technician, Ontario

Make flat-rate/commission pay plans illegal as a form of compensation across Canada.  —Head technician, British Columbia

Mandatory health benefit packages and pension plans.  —Technician, Ontario

Need better pay for skilled techs and less for parts pushers.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Not only fair wages for our technicians but a fairly consistent hourly shop rate (with relation to the city in which the shop is located) so that this target can be met.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Nothing can be done. As techs we don’t even have the respect of our employers for the most part, let alone the public. I go to work everyday wondering if I am one mistake away from the door.  —Technician, Ontario

Professionalism throughout all aspects of the automotive repair industry.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Shop owners and techs should have more respect for other shops we are all in this together, the more we put down other shops the worse we all look to the consumers.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Shops need to offer fair pay to technicians (not flat rate).  —Shop owner, Ontario

Should a licensed technician have the authority to remove plates if during an inspection the vehicle is deemed unsafe to drive and the repairs are declined by the customer?  —Shop owner, Ontario

We lead by example.  —Shop owner, Alberta

Some shops that work flat rate complete the job in a lot less than the time allotted and make the customer wait for several hours while the car sits in the shop because they want the customer to think their car was worked on all the time they were charged. Flat rate can be and is abused. This type of practice gives all technicians and shop owners a bad name and hurts the automotive industry very much. The majority of customers hate to spend money on their vehicles and feel as if they are being ripped off when they have work done. We should police our shops and make this practice go away. Be fair and honest to the customer and yourself.  —Technician, Nova Scotia

Stop blaming consumers for our own lack of knowledge and know-how. We shouldn’t rely on the industry to tell how to do things. If you have any morals, you should know what is right and what is wrong. Do what you know is right, and promote it to your fellow workers. It only takes one to start. Try being the one. The trade of automotive technician is not an 8-to-5 job. As with anything, there is a lot of background work involved. I used to take service manuals home and read them to understand the proper operation of components. Stop waiting for someone to tell you. Learn it yourself. Elementary school, middle school, and high school gave you the tools to do that. I apologize now if I have hurt someone’s feelings. Like it has always been said, “No pain, no gain.”  —Shop owner, Alberta

The auto technician is making the same income as 10 or 15 years ago, with fewer benefits and more low paid hours.  —Technician, British Columbia

The automotive industry is farther behind than any other trade out there, in terms of pay for technicians. —Shop owner, Alberta

The flat-rate labour guide is being used as a Bible and not as a guide. Up here, we have to deal with corrosion and the customer has to understand that this affects how long it takes us to remove parts. In the end, I believe a technician should be able to choose whether they want to participate or not in the flat-rate pay plan. I would personally be very happy getting paid for all the time I work on a vehicle and do the job properly without having to rush through it to either make more money or break even.  —Shop owner, Ontario

The flat-rate repair system needs to be scrapped, especially in Atlantic Canada where vehicles are so rusty that there’s no possible way to fairly estimate any repair job.  —Technician, Nova Scotia

The flat-rate system needs to be removed. It worked in the seventies but not now.  —Shop owner, Ontario

There should be a program above and beyond WHIMS that will bi-annually inspect shops and their equipment so that the workers have a safer working environment. Hoist inspections and repairs should be mandated to twice a year – and shop owners shouldn’t be able to purchase hoist repair parts just as the public shouldn’t be able to purchase safety related parts for their vehicles. Nobody needs to be injured because a shop owner doesn’t want to pay a professional for hoist repairs! They have the funds. They obviously need to be forced to spend them!  —Technician, Ontario

Too many thieves in our business. Just check some rates and ask some people, and you’ll find a crook.  —Shop owner, New Brunswick

Undercharging for basic services to get customers in the shop devalues all of our work.  —Shop manager, Ontario

Wage and pension plan would be on the top of my list. Government grants and incentives are only for techs starting out in the trade.  —Technician, Prince Edward Island

We need a standardized system of diagnostics so that three shops won’t come to three different conclusions about the same car. (This happened to a friend of mine lately.)  —Technician, Alberta

We really need to harmonize labour rates in this industry. There are so many people undercharging for the work that is done. I never see a dentist undercutting prices. In our trade you get looked at like a thief if you charge for a scan test because some shops out there advertise free scan tests! Smarten up! Let’s get paid what is owed to us.  —Shop owner, Ontario

With regard to Question #12, Charging too much, within reason, does not raise rip-off suspicions. Faulty or fraudulent diagnosis and repair does.  —Shop owner, Ontario

 

Change the perception of the general public that automotive technicians are professionals, not the grease monkeys of the past.  —Shop foreman, British Columbia

Educate the public about how aftermarket technicians are generally better trained, more skilled, and usually less expensive to contract for services. —Shop owner, Ontario

Educate the public by comparing the skill level, education, ongoing training necessary to keep up with cutting-edge technology, the complexities of different makes and models, etc. to other professional occupations. Doctors, for example, are required to repair and service only one type of “vehicle.” Automotive technicians are highly skilled professionals too. They should be granted due respect.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Education. The public doesn’t understand how and why our industry does what it does and why it costs what it costs to get their cars fixed. —Counterperson, New Brunswick

Focus on the overall image of the trade. Improving the image by marketing to consumers. Educating them on the importance of maintenance is a good start. But improving the image of the people working on the vehicles, uniforms or at the very least a clean appearance. Too many mechanics/technicians do not represent the proper image with dirty and sometimes greasy clothes. Getting dirty is a part of the trade but we can look clean when dealing with the public.  —Technician, Manitoba

It all boils down to better public perception and understanding of what our trade actually encompasses. Then repair shops can raise their rates and charge correctly for services or repairs. And, in turn, they can raise the pay rates of technicians. —Shop owner, Ontario

Management, industry perception by the consumers, sub-standard employees and shops… I’m afraid it’s unfixable.  —Technician, Alberta

Personally I think the auto industry needs to educate the motoring public about how complicated modern auto automobiles are. The old “mechanic” is a thing of the past. Modern auto techs are not just mechanical engineers; they have to be able to work on plumbing, computers, hydraulics, hazardous material handling, electrical systems, heating and air conditioning to name just a few. Doctors have been working on the same “model” for hundreds of years. The auto industry changes hundreds of models every year to make more complex systems and yet the auto tech is still looked down on as some over-charging, shifty grease monkey who only cares about ripping you off and getting drunk. Customers don’t give a damn about maintaining their cars. The consumer somehow thinks the auto tech somehow broke their car. How many times have you heard, “I have never had to do anything to my car, how come it’s broken after you worked on it.” Name one other consumer product that never needs attention for 20 plus year and never get old or breaks. —Technician, British Columbia

The public must be able to respect our profession. That comes from within.  — Shop owner, Alberta

We have come a long way from 10-15 years ago. Image and professional development and promotion of the trade has to be ongoing.  —Technician, Saskatchewan

We need to focus on making the general public aware of how much skill and education is actually required to be a competent technician in today’s trade. We see it so often that high schools promote trades only as an option for students who couldn’t get into a university program. They need to stop degrading the trade!  —Apprentice, Saskatchewan

 Parts & Equipment

Aftermarket parts should meet OE standards or better. —Technician, Alberta

Cheap offshore knock-off parts need to be tracked. Who’s selling them & installing them on unsuspecting customers.  —Service manager, New Brunswick

Costs associated with new technology, especially related to equipment, are getting too high and make it unaffordable for smaller shops in smaller markets to stay profitable. Upgrading equipment and required electronics, scan tools, etc. is a huge investment. The ROI is poor. Many shop owners I know are finding the same, and it’s getting to the point where you have to “go big or go home.” Small 2-4 bay shops don’t have the resources to compete with the larger operations, and I think over the next 10 years many small shops will be gone.  —Shop owner, Manitoba

Get suppliers to stop selling parts to retail customers at the same price that shops are paying.  —Shop owner, New Brunswick

Just forget about unions and stop worrying about selling parts to the public. Let’s concentrate more on getting a handle on parts pricing. When the local parts store sells parts to the general public for the same price as the shop, or just a little above shop cost, we can’t mark it up to make the fair amount we should. I have been in this business for 30 years now and this “third pricing” as I call it has always been a problem. The government needs to stop it. Then the shops could make better money.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Make diagnostic equipment and software more readily and cheaply available to all shops.  —Shop owner, British Columbia

Manufacturers need to be held accountable for excessive pricing on parts. We should also be paid in full for defective parts replacement.  —Shop owner, Ontario

My biggest concern is the sale of safety related parts to DIY. —Shop Manager, Ontario

People buying their own safety related parts is a big problem. —Technician, Alberta

Stop the sale of bright not-legal headlights.  —Shop manager, British Columbia

The purchase of scrapyard parts from professional shops should not be allowed!  — Shop owner, Ontario

Top priorities should be restricting sale of safety parts (brakes, suspension, etc.) to non-licensed techs. —Technician, Saskatchewan

We need quality parts. Offshore parts need to be inspected before sale.  —Technician, Ontario

We need to regulate of part purchases. —Shop owner, Alberta

 
Recruitment

Have qualified people involved in government apprenticeship programs.  —Technician, Ontario

If we are going to promote these trades to youth, we will require additional information be available to the sponsors, so that they are aware of the challenges within generation Y and will have the ability to be great mentors!  —Marketing & Communications Manager, British Columbia

In Alberta, apprentice automotive service technicians earn at least 55 per cent of the top journeyman wage rate in the first year. They’re up to 70 per cent in the second, 80 per cent in the third, and 90 per cent in the fourth. This may seem OK for flat-rate shops, however it is a deterrent to bring on apprentices at hourly rate wage shops. If your top tech makes $40 per hour, a third-year apprentice would be making $36 per hour. Other licensed techs in the same shop are making $25 to $30 per hour. Once the apprentice becomes a licensed tech. He’ll go back down to $25 per hour. This doesn’t make any sense.  —Shop owner, Alberta

Not enough young people are interested in this trade.  —Technician, Alberta

The secondary schools should have licensed tradesmen teaching the trades, not the senior unionized teacher with no background experience.  —Technician, Ontario

We need better incentives to the younger generation to enter the trade.  —Counterperson, New Brunswick

We should promote more automotive education in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools.  —College instructor, Ontario

 
 

Regulatory Environment

A minimum standard for required insurance needs to be put in place to ensure customers are properly protected.  —Shop owner, Manitoba

Allow more tax deductions.  —Technician, Ontario

Business liability insurance costs.  —Shop owner Ontario

College of Trades.  —Shop manager, Ontario

Do not allow recertification. It will only create problems in the industry by not giving techs a chance to relax. They will always be thinking about “going back to school.” The industry will be scaring away potential new techs because they would not want to have to “prove” them selves again and again. Some techs and garage owners work too many hours as it is and many have trouble putting words to paper, which could mean that techs may loose their Certificate of Qualification because they have poor writing or test skills. We are tested constantly by the cars we service and do not need recertification.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Eliminate non-licensed shops and backyarders.  —Technician, Saskatchewan

Further lobbying to legislate and support the “Right to Repair.”   —Shop owner, British Columbia

Get rid of backyard shops!  —Shop manager, Ontario
Get rid of backyarders.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Get unlicensed and backyarders banned from operating in Canada.  —Technician, British Columbia

I am from Alberta, which could be the worst province for the automotive trade. We have to do insurance inspections, which we call joke inspections, because there is no guideline to follow. If we fail an out-of-province inspection, the consumer just phones and complains, and whoever’s sitting behind the desk at the time will grant a pass. It is a frustrating yet rewarding trade. I just wish the “higher ups” would help and the rest of us could work together.  —Shop owner, Alberta

I feel that annual safety inspections may be a good idea. However, being a licensed provincial vehicle inspector, I feel that some of the criteria to pass the inspection go a little overboard. They’re not all about safety (for example, window tint). This is why I put strongly disagree on the survey.  —Technician, British Columbia

I think government should introduce a tool compensation tax for technicians. No other trade has the ongoing cost burden that an auto technician has. There are all kinds of tax shelters for other professions but the lowly technician has to keep investing to keep up with the ever-changing technology.  —Shop Manager, Newfoundland

Large national tire and hardware stores that offer mechanical repairs as a secondary profit-making plan need to be regulated. Most customers perceive these as emergency repair facilities only in time of break down due to extended hours of operation.  —Service manager, Alberta

Licensed technicians should have some kind of authority to remove license plates from vehicles that are found to be unsafe. I’m talking about vehicles being serviced in their facilities with an active work order.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Lobby to adjust the operation of the College of Trades in Ontario to meet the needs of veteran technicians. Once achieved, many of the other goals will be met.  —Technician, Ontario

More info about the College of Trades and what they are going to do for the motive power trades.  —Shop owner, Ontario

More tax breaks for apprentices and faster EI cheques (so there is no lag in income) when they’re taking trades training.  —Shop owner, British Columbia

Our municipality has made backyarders legal Wow. Try to compete with that!  —Shop owner, Ontario

Right to Repair, scan tool accessibility, should be able to get better information out of our scan tools: powertrain, body, chassis.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Service writers should be required to have some sort of licensing, such as the parts persons require, formal schooling, formal recognized training, some sort of certificate.  —Technician, Alberta

Shops that run “cash” deals to avoid taxes, and who pay their techs partially under the table are in effect practicing unfair competition and are ruining the industry.  —Shop owner, Quebec

Skilled people are not given adequate compensation for the costs servicing the industry. All tools purchased should be deductible against income, as is the case with other professionals who require far fewer tools. Equalize the playing field would boost interest in this trade.  —Technician, British Columbia

Standardize licensing across provinces.  —Technician, Ontario

Standards with regard to E-testing.  —Shop owner, Ontario

Stop governments from charging too much for our certification. —Technician, Ontario

Stop unlicensed individuals from performing work on vehicles. This is a regulated trade. Make it mean something!  —Shop Manager, Ontario

Technicians need to have a continued certification process. When new technology is introduced, at least one tech should complete a course on the technology so they are able to help their coworkers be updated.  —Apprentice, Ontario

The College of Trades. I cannot stress how much this has been mishandled. Most techs and tradesmen from other fields are just finding out about this now. Reminds me of the new emission test standards, no one knew about it until it was too late to do anything about it.  —Technician, Ontario

The government should keep their hands off the trade. For example: The New College of Trades (in Ontario) that is getting mixed reviews from the people being forced to join. —Shop owner, Ontario

There should be a mandatory apprenticeship program, and not have unlicensed mechanics “grandfathered” in.  —Technician, Ontario

There should be municipally mandated annual emissions testing.  —Shop owner, Manitoba

We have to pay AMVIC a licensing fee but backyarders just keep on doing what they are doing. —Shop owner, Alberta

 
 

Training 

Education for both technicians (especially older techs) and consumers.  —Counterperson, New Brunswick

Education for shop owners on what is already available to them, so they don’t complain about stuff that they should know about. Tools, training and apprenticeship programs are misunderstood by many.  —Shop owner, British Columbia

Emergency workers should have more information on where all the air bags are located in all makes of vehicles. Also more information as where the batteries are located.  —Shop owner, Saskatchewan

Management needs training. Less-qualified staff are falling into roles they are not trained for. Apprentices may be getting licensed even though their skills are subpar.  —Technician, New Brunswick

More available training for techs in smaller rural areas outside of large centers. Planned workshops once or twice a year on a weekend. Traveling to an area so a number of shops can take advantage. Thanks.  —Technician, Manitoba

More shop owners need business training to help lead the industry in the right direction.   —Shop owner, Ontario

Shop management training, including on how to get a good lawyer and accountants.  —Shop owner, Ontario

There is very little training on the business side of things. Training for counter people, training for business owner on how to save money on taxes, and what government programs exist for the owner. Shop owners are left out, with no support on day-to-day problems.  —Shop owner, Nova Scotia

We need better availability of information from vehicle manufacturers.  —Shop owner, Ontario


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