After a long road, full and open access to manufacturers’ service websites became a reality for the Canadian independent aftermarket this past May. Then everything went quiet.
Perhaps it was a pause for everyone at National Automotive Trades Association, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada (AIAMC), and the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA) to catch their breath after working so hard to create the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS).
But the impact of the shift in the playing field for the aftermarket should not get lost in the shuffle.
“I think it’s a real boon to us,” says John Cochrane, owner of Cochrane Automotive in Toronto, Ont., and for more than a decade now, the aftermarket’s most stalwart soldier in the battle for access-to-repair information. As a jobber, a licensed technician, the owner of a service facility, and a student of the issues facing the service industry as automotive technology advances, few have his level of experience and knowledge. He is well-versed on the issue, from the highest policy levels on down to the reality of what it means in the service bay.
He laments that there are many in the industry who continue to be unaware of the impact of the change.
An ongoing AutoServiceWorld.com poll reveals that only 19% of respondents felt they were well informed about the CASIS agreement. Those who felt somewhat informed numbered 30%, and those who were poorly informed, the largest number, came in at 33%. And, not to be left out, those who fell into the “What agreement?” category came in at 16%.
Cochrane says it is important to understand the breadth of the impact of technology that requires access to information only available on OEM websites.
“We had a situation here with a BMW with changing out the HID lights. With those HID lights, some of the modules have to be programmed when you change them. If you don’t have access to the information, you are going back to the dealer.”
He does allow as how shops only doing basic maintenance– brakes, oil changes, exhaust–may not see much impact. But an increasing number of systems require reflash capability. Virtually anything to do with electrical systems, sensors, and, of course, emissions systems, can fall into this category.
But it’s not just accepted high-tech service: electric window switches, dome lights, taillights, air conditioning service, brake pad replacement, and the aforementioned headlights can all require some degree of access to an OEM site.
He says that now that the information is available, there are two major challenges ahead for the industry: awareness, and training.
“A lot of it is going to depend on how fast we can spread the word. That is going to be a big focus of the ASP Council [of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada].
“But the big problem that is facing us is training technicians and garage owners on being able to use the websites and to not be afraid of them. That is a major learning curve.
“There needs to be a process where you can learn to navigate the website. Some of them are much easier than others. Each different website is done to that manufacturer’s format. So they all have a different way to go at it.”
He says that many websites echo the service manuals, which are often organized quite differently from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Working your way through some sites, he says, can be a frustrating experience for a tech unfamiliar with the terminology and logic behind the way the information is organized.
Of course, most shops use a combination of Mitchell and Alldata information to help with service information, TSBs, and the like.
Cochrane says the creation of the National Automotive Service Task Force agreement that opened up access to the service sites in the U.S. pushed these providers to improve their information.
“What you’re seeing with them is very good stuff. But sometimes you are going to need some very specific stuff at the OEM websites. And you’re not getting flash downloading from Mitchell or Alldata.
“One of the other things that people aren’t realizing is that the immobilizer technology and the key issues of getting codes to start vehicles, we don’t have that yet. But it is coming in CASIS.”
So, in the midst of this evolving situation, what can the jobber do?
For one, he says, get your own people familiar with the issue, and with the websites. Ensure that your customers are aware. And do what you can to set up training to ensure they are familiar with those sites.
And jobbers should also ensure that you have a supplier of reflash tools, and know what J2534 is.
The details of how to manage the transition with all these changes is hard to determine, though, since it is very early in the process.
One thing that is not in question is whether it is a good thing. “It’s spectacular for the industry. There are no two ways about it.”
We asked suppliers for their perspective. Here’s what they had to say.
“With availability to this information, technicians have the opportunity to diagnose and repair late model, high technology vehicles, particularly critical when repairing increasingly complex engine and fuel management systems,” says a response from Delphi Product & Service Solutions. “Access to this information allows the independent shops to effectively compete with the vehicle manufacturer dealerships to service advanced technology vehicles.
“Making repair information available to independent service providers will also offer choice to consumers.
“It’s important for the entire repair channel to understand many parts manufacturers also provide technical and repair information based on their product portfolio. For example, Delphi uses [its OE] expertise to provide a technical hotline, and online support. Delphi also offers seminars and hands-on workshop training on fuel, engine, diesel, heating and cooling systems, and diagnostics.”
Doug Doran, Eastern Canada trainer for Blue-Streak-Hygrade Motor Products says that some shops are having difficulty accepting the cost of the OEM information and wonder aloud if this information won’t be passed along to the third-party providers quickly enough, offering a lower-cost solution.
“Going to OE may not be for everybody. Most of people who are in the business are looking at alternative sources of information. But it is really going to be an asset to the repair facility if they need that information.”
Howard Belski, in technical support for Blue Streak, agrees. “From my perspective as a technician, with the new right to repair, it will give the consumer the opportunity to have everything done at the independent service provider of their choice.
“Flashing and updates are part of the 21st century tune-up. This is really a useful tool. People just aren’t educated on the value that being able to reflash a consumer’s car brings.”
Vehicle Manufacturer Service Information Websites
Assembled as part of the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard by the National Automotive Trades Association, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada (AIAMC), the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), and the manufacturers, these links, and the information they lead to, are available to the independent aftermarket.
Everyone in the aftermarket is urged to familiarize themselves with as much of this information as they can. These links can be found at www.natacanada.ca,