Auto Service World
Feature   May 2, 2018   by Adam Malik

EDITORIAL: Time to get the message out

Changing vehicle technology is setting up another fight between OEs and the aftermarket. The time is now to get ahead of the mudslinging.

The competition begins now.  

That is, the battle for customers between the independent aftermarket and the original equipment dealers. It’s setting up to be something we haven’t seen before.  

The OEs have always tried to keep as many customers as they can within their four walls. That’s nothing new. The fight over right to repair and the creation of the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard serves as the latest and most bruising example.  

Changing vehicle technology is setting up the latest fight. As has been pointed out in the past and now underscored in a recent Senate report, automakers will claim that they should own customer data and telematics info so that they can keep drivers within their dealer service and repair bays. Vehicles will be more than a mechanical device, and need to be serviced by the OE’s own technology professionals.  

It can be compelling argument. “Who would you rather trust to handle your investment? The people who built your car and our technicians who know it inside and out, or a third party?” they will ask with dark overtones. For those who are skeptical of the aftermarket – there are enough unfair stereotypes surrounding the industry, especially concerning technicians – they will be drawn towards this loaded message.  

The industry needs to get ahead of the mudslinging, and it needs to begin now. 

But it’s not a premise that holds up. The Senate has directed government agencies “to ensure that sectors such as the aftermarket and car rental companies continue to have access to the data they need to offer their services” as it relates to the impact of connected and automated technology in vehicles. Thanks to the successful lobbying of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada – which has built itself up as a trustworthy and credible voice – the Senate agrees that the aftermarket can’t be locked out and is capable of servicing future needs.  

Still, knowing the aftermarket will have access to vital information, dealers will be impressing on drivers that they should be the customer’s trusted partner.  

It’s a message the aftermarket will need to fight. The industry needs to get ahead of the mudslinging, and it needs to begin now.  

It will be critical for our industry to push the (accurate) message that the aftermarket is an ideal place to have vehicles serviced and repaired.  

Shops will be on the front end of this effort in terms of customer service and job quality. Jobbers will be critical, ensuring that sure they’re providing shops with the right part for the right job by asking the right questions, making sure all related components and upsells are included and delivered in a timely manner.  

Brent Hesje, the incoming chairman of the AIA, hopes to do his part as well to lend support. It’s estimated the unrealized potential of vehicle maintenance – work that is outlined in the owner’s manual but ignored by motorists – is $15 billion per year. That’s a pretty big prize.  

He wants drivers to realize that they should be visiting shops more often for this needed work. If successful, even a little bit, that will bring more selling opportunities and increased profits. But most importantly, it will also increase interactions between customer and industry. That’s where the aftermarket can boost consumer confidence and differentiate itself from the OEs today and in the future.  

The AIA has spent years steadily building itself as a trustworthy and credible organization. Now it’s time for the aftermarket to reap those rewards and position itself for the future.

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