If you ask Ron Tremblay, education is essential to make the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard a success.
“(It’s time to) educate shop owners and technicians (on) how to effectively use this product to stay in the game,” said the owner of The Garage in Vancouver, B.C.
The CASIS agreement, otherwise known as ‘right to repair,’ has faced challenges, said Tremblay, who is also chairman of the Automotive Service Providers Council for the AIA, board chairman for the Automotive Retailers Association of B.C. and chairman of the Automotive Sector Advisory Group with the Industry Training Authority with the provincial government. “But the program is not at fault,” he stated. Instead, the problem has been that not enough people have been educated on how to properly use the system and few know how to master it.
Tremblay believes the industry needs an ambitious marketing campaign to help all technicians better understand how CASIS works. “Show them and help them sort out all the issues that are there so they are using it more often and becoming comfortable with it. That’s the problem I see.”
Education efforts have been made. For example, the AIA has training available via a portal at www.oem2tech.com. Valid for one year, access costs $99 for AIA members and $199 for non-members. It contains videos and reading materials that go through the process of vehicle reprogramming for different makes and models.
And Tremblay is not alone in believing that there’s room for improvement within the agreement. Automotive trainer Mark Lemay of Auto Aide in Barrie, Ont., also thinks service provider education is critical to CASIS success. Furthermore, he believes the agreement “lacks teeth” and he’d like to see amendments to ensure the latest service information is always available to the aftermarket.
“For instance, Honda agreed five years ago to provide theft related information through CASIS for ASPs (and) they haven’t done it yet. There’s no mechanism anywhere to say to them, ‘You have to do this,’” he claimed. “If (manufacturers) don’t feel like doing this, there’s no way to push them into it.” Looking back, he believes legislation rather than a voluntary agreement would have been a better way to go.
“I really hate to say that … but this is a case where we should have had something stronger in place,” he said.
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However, Rich Payter, owner of Mayland Heights Autopro in Calgary, thinks CASIS is just fine. “All the information is there for everybody to use. And most of it has been there for a very long time,” he said. “Even Joe Public … has access to that information, but they have to pay for it.”
The problem, he said, is the tools shops are using, not lack of information. “What ends up happening, Shop A will say ‘I can’t do that’ because they don’t have the right tool.”
Investing in the right equipment to do the job will go a long way. “As soon as you pay for the subscription from that dealership, you have access to everything,” Payter said, adding that he hasn’t come across any problems in getting information. “I truly believe the information is there for us. There is still going to be certain information that the dealerships are not going to release, but I have not come across that yet.”
Another reason why shops haven’t quite jumped on board with CASIS according to Tremblay is because technicians and shop owners don’t see the value in taking the time to learn.
“The business environment has so many stresses. New technology comes at us at a rapid pace and the cost of doing business mounts,” he said, noting that the perception among technicians is time spent learning the system is time not making money.
“That’s why it doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s such a struggle to remain in the game these days.”
Changing the mindset
Tremblay said it’s possible to profit from CASIS, but educating the consumer is a must to make it happen. Too often, customers expect their cars to be diagnosed for free. And technicians oblige — about 80 per cent of them, he estimated. “‘I’m giving you a job to do; that should be enough to keep you happy.’ (That’s) where the consumer’s mind is at.
“Having to pay, say, $200 to hook up scan tools and spend time to evaluate everything under the hood? People don’t see that as worth $200. They see that as, ‘Wow, I should get rid of my car.’”
Tremblay advises shops to “use the site regularly and charge the customer for that. It’s like buying a part. If I buy a part from you for $10 and I add my markup … that’s how we do business when we buy and sell parts,” he said. “But the industry has not mastered buying labor and information for $10 (and adding a markup). They don’t do it. They are expected to do it for free. The independent industry feels guilty, they don’t feel proud, and they’re not standing up for their rights.”
It will take time to reverse the mindset of the customer, but it must be done across the industry. “That is a marketing issue that very few automotive shops can take on themselves,” Tremblay said.
But education will increase when technicians stop relying on quick-fix tools like Identifix, Lemay said. “CASIS needs to be used by more general technicians. They need to be educated. Want them to use it? Take away Identifix.”
Why? Lemay said he regularly encounters technicians who put a part on a car because Identifix said so. “But did you troubleshoot (the problem)?” Lemay will ask the technician. Almost undoubtedly, the response is no. “You need to get the guys out of the mode of looking up a silver bullet on the Internet —half of which are wrong — and get them to actually sit down and troubleshoot the car. Then they will go after the information.”