Auto Service World
News   May 13, 2020   by Zara Wishloff

Commentary: Our badge of honour

We’re fortunate to be in an industry that was not only open during the worst of the crisis … it was essential.


By Zara Wishloff

It will be a long while before the craziness of the global pandemic fades from memory. If ever.

The Covid-19 crisis hit many, and it hit them fast. Society changed with unprecedented speed in those early days, and our industry – like so many others – came under immediate and tremendous strain.

It was very quickly acknowledged, however, that vehicle repair and maintenance is incredibly important in a crisis. Indeed, we were deemed to be an essential service. That might have surprised some of those on the shop floors of our industry. As a group, we tend to downplay our own significance in society. But coronavirus brought an “ah-ha” moment to our industry, as we were asked to keep critical services operating.

No matter who you think of as heroes during the pandemic – whether they are doctors, nurses, paramedics, or first-responders of another kind – they all need reliable transportation to get to the places they need to be. More importantly, they need to get there in a safe and reliable fashion, without putting themselves or others at risk.

That applies to every critical role in our modern society. From police officers and firefighters to utility workers, taxis, and delivery trucks, they all move products, parts, and people that our society relies on.

I’ve always maintained that our industry can withstand many economic challenges. When times are good, people have money to do the “extra” services required on their vehicles. Yes, they also buy new vehicles, but they splurge on accessories to go with them. And when repairs are necessary, they tend to choose the “best” option. In boom times, businesses and fleets are busy, which also adds to our collective bottom line.

And when times are bad, people still have to get the big-ticket repairs done on their vehicles so they can avoid the additional cost of buying new. They still need transportation to get to their jobs, so maintenance has to get done. The vehicle is one of the critical necessities in most people’s lives.

When times got really bad, we were there to help society soldier on.

Given the economic slowdown of the current pandemic, a few opportunities have arisen for our industry. Office workers who may have otherwise been too busy to bring their vehicle in for service have found themselves working from home. Without the commute, they are finding this is an ideal time to fix that door lock actuator or other annoyance that they’ve been living with for so long. Some people have family and obligations far from home. They need their vehicles to be reliable, as they travel to locked-down cities to care for relatives.

Progressive service providers have pivoted quickly – offering remote pick-ups, contact-free drop-offs, vehicle disinfecting, and other value-added services that are especially appreciated in these difficult times.

They truly are unsung heroes, going into work while so many others stay home.

There’s no doubt our society will come out of this with different perspectives. Our economy will be bruised and battered. What it will look like is uncertain. But one thing is clear: we will look out our windows and see vehicles keeping society moving.

And we will proudly wear the badge of honour that we earned during the pandemic: “Essential Service.”


Zara Wishloff is vice president of sales and marketing for Automotive Parts Distributors (APD) with four warehouses in Alberta and Saskatchewan. You can reach him at

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