If the Automotive Industries Association’s recent Knowledge Exchange Series didn’t have many believers in attendance that change is going to be part of their future, it’s likely those folks left thinking so.
France Daviault, the AIA’s senior director of stakeholder relations, kicked the day-long session in Woodbridge, Ont. off with a video that looked back to 1994 when people were trying to figure out that strange thing called the Internet. Today, the automotive aftermarket is facing similar quizzical thoughts as things like electric vehicles and, especially, autonomous vehicles start to become part of everyday vocabularies.
She also talked about the AIA’s concern on a number of issues affecting the industry, from a skills shortage to public perception to a gap in technical skills. And, she said, innovation is challenge, especially when the government funds innovation for large automakers rather than the aftermarket.
“There is a huge opportunity for the federal government to understand that the other half of the automotive sector – the aftermarket sector – can also benefit from some innovation funds,” Daviault said.
James Carter, principal consultant of Vision Mobility, a consultancy firm that advises clients of changes in mobility. He talked about the future of mobility and what that could mean for the future of the automotive industry, and as a result, the automotive aftermarket. For example, autonomous vehicles mean fewer car accidents and decreased needs to get cars repaired. It also represents a growth market for telecommunications companies. After all, Carter said, people will be able to watch movies, play games or do work in their vehicle as it drives itself to the occupant’s destination.
“I believe car sharing will become ubiquitous,” he added.
Rick Nadeau of Quorus Consulting Group talked a lot about developing trust with customers from the service professional side. He explored the results of a survey that asked why drivers go to a dealership versus an independent shop. Little had to do with trusting their technician, he explained. The difference, he said, is because of the perception that dealerships are more expensive than independent shops.
“It’s price driven,” Nadeau said, not because customers believe they are finding more knowledgeable or trustworthy professionals.
The day ended with a panel discussion on challenges service providers face. Called “What’s keeping you awake at night?”, the discussion ranged from nightmare situations shops face to what can be offered to keep customers more satisfied.
I have been in this industry for many years and quite frankly when I read the last statement about keeping customers “more” satisfied, I was not surprised that it was still a point discussion. The traditional good old way of doing business will never change since the majority of the operators are semi satisfied with where they are and continue to do what they have always done – not all but the majority in the business today…. and in turn the level of satisfaction will be where it has been for decades and the unperformed maintenance category will continue to grow and the topic willl be revisited over and over…. there are many ways to provide the level of service that will meet today’s customers needs. I have a program that has been proven and will continue to promote to those who are serious. It also includes succession planning since the old guard is just about ready to go. It is not that difficult l, who would like to make a change?