Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2000   by Andrew Ross

Cover Story: Mr. Transmission’s Randy Moore is Every Inch a Retailer

He's also the first retailer to become Chairman of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada

His hair is neatly clipped, his mustache tightly trimmed. He’s quick with a smile and looks you straight in the eye when he has something to say.

Randy Moore looks as if he would be as much at home with a clipboard in his hand explaining an estimate to a customer as he is formulating business plans as the vice-president, franchise operations for Mr. Transmission’s 89 outlets.

The wiry, energetic Moore comes by his quick, friendly manner as much out of nature as of habit.

“That comes from being in the retail business. You have to move quickly and you have to take steps and action right away. You can’t be methodical about everything. Sometimes it’s fire now, aim later.”

He says that while this makes him suited to retail, he’s had to make a conscious effort to operate effectively within the environment of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, which operates on longer timeframes out of necessity. He understands that getting programs off the ground within the association can take time, but he can be forgiven if he’s not a status quo type of guy.

After all, as the first chairman to come from the retail sector of the aftermarket, he’s also the first to break with the AIA’s tradition of alternating jobbers and manufacturers’ representatives in the top appointment. While the association broke new ground last year in naming an individual without a background in the hard-parts aftermarket to the position with the appointment of Mike Bryan, whose credentials were exclusively from the refinish paints sector, Moore’s appointment brings an important new perspective to the job, and a new shape to the AIA.

“It makes a statement that the AIA has now matured to the level that they’re looking at the entire industry and that they need input from the different segments. More discussion goes on today at the committee level as to the influence of the end installer. The end installer is the person who interfaces most with the end consumers who pay the bill. He’ll have a personal preference based on how he has been dealt with by either his jobber network or manufacturer. So, the end installer is going to have a huge influence at the end of the day.

“From a retailing perspective, we’ve always dealt with the end installer. Our focus is on training and development and image, because we understand that our customer talks to that person. Regardless of what my marketing program says or my advertising says, if my installer person doesn’t reflect the same kind of image, I’ve wasted all that other money.

“I think that the AIA is now starting to appreciate that we need a lot of programs that talk to the installer about image and training and technology and the future of the industry.”

Moore believes that future will be shaped by technology at many levels; national and local actions will comprise the challenges and the successes of the aftermarket in the short and long term.

“You know, you talk about broad-based terms like technology, and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but my mandate is to burn all manuals.”

He explains, “We have an operations office downstairs that is chock full of technical manuals. We’ve got them all. When we move to our new corporate facility, we’re not taking them. We’re taking everything in a small shoebox that’s full of discs.

“Believe me, my goal is to get rid of manuals in a printed format and get some serious sponsorship behind promoting programs that allow the technician to have access to technology without having to go through various manuals to try to find it.”

He has a long-term vision of a seamless flow of information from handheld barcode scanners to capture VINs, to touchscreen access to technical information and suppliers that will speed access to information and improve the accuracy of parts ordering. All these components exist in today’s world, but they’re yet to be put into place in the aftermarket.

He doesn’t expect a widespread technology revolution to happen overnight. Today, there are still those manuals to contend with.

“In Kanata, Ont., at the Certigard MAP outlet that was opening, a young technician was in the back room working on the computer, getting some technical information. The owner had taken all the manuals down because they were renovating the office area.

“I said to the owner, ‘Don’t put the manuals back up; they’re just dust collectors. Go for the technology. Make it available. Get involved in programs–whether contests or promotions–and let’s get behind it and try to put as much technology at the technician’s fingertips as we can.'”

It’s more efficient, it’s more current and it portrays a more attractive image of the trade from the outside. It also makes for a more intellectually stimulating environment for those already working as technicians, says Moore.

“We have a concern that the aging population of technicians is growing and, as human nature is, a lot of the older technicians are not readily prepared to deal with computer issues. We need to drive this industry and make freedom of information available for the young technicians because it is intriguing, it is interesting and they do look at that as a part of the industry that is specialized: being able to access information and being able to make repairs.”

It’s a sexy image of meeting the challenges of a repair through information and problem solving, not wrenches, that will require some time to get across to the public and the industry, but it has been done before.

“I’ll tell you, the AIA has done a fabulous job. In 10 years, we have removed the word ‘mechanic.’ It has taken us 10 years, but you will not go into a room and hear people talking about mechanics. That was not the case 10 years ago when we were still struggling with the rag hanging out the back pocket and the boots open. We’ve finally turned the corner on that. That came from technology because now they start to associate computers with cars, the image level comes up. The rag no longer hangs out the back pocket.”

To Moore, technicians are leaving the age of the oily rag and entering the age of the pen protector. From the AIA’s perspective, this presents some important challenges. These will call on the association to not just present programs, but to expand its membership within the jobber community.

“Because I’m from retailing, I’m in touch more with the installer and the service bay and what goes on there; I see that we don’t have enough jobbers in this association. We need to communicate to installers and if we’re going to communicate with installers, we have to get those jobbers in. They’re not here because they don’t know what we do; they don’t know what the benefit is.”

Getting that information out is going to be an important focus for Moore and it is completely consistent with his desire to improve the services that the AIA can offer the installer base.

He believes the entire aftermarket needs to get in on the act, with manufacturers including technical information in every box, mass merchandisers and retailers driving the technology usage, and jobbers getting on board with technology and bringing technology and educational programs to the attention of the installer; programs such as the AIA’s initiative to promote the use of the Canadian Automotive Service & Repair Council’s satellite-based real-time Interactive Distance Learning programs. He says the jobber is critical to the success of many of these initiatives.

“I think we only have about 30% of the jobber network in Canada, and that’s a big mistake. Jobbers are talking to the local installers, whether they are industrial installers, farm use, light industry or the automotive retailer. We need to talk to those people, because if we want to end up at the end of the day with technicians getting the information that they need, using automation for what it is supposed to be used for–burning manuals and going online–it has to be the jobber that tells them. It can’t be me.

“In their opinion, I’m somebody at AIA who sits in a board meeting. The jobber is the guy on the street. He’s the same guy they see at the grocery store. If we get him in the AIA and st
arting to say, hey there’s this new program or installation process or technology, that’s value added, member-driven stuff.

“So you’re not going to see a lot of new growth [in membership] at the top end, but we’ve got to get more jobbers.”

It’s interesting to note that, despite his retail perspective, or maybe because of it, jobbers are at the top of his mind. That may be a bit of a surprise, especially coming from a guy who is a retailer, both by nature and by training; then again, maybe it’s only a surprise to those who don’t know Randy Moore.

Randy Moore: A High School Jobber Recruit

While the importance of the installer is not lost on Moore, he nevertheless counts the jobber world as part of his background.

“When I was in high school, I used to work for Borovoy Automotive (north of Toronto), but in those days you’d work after school stocking the shelves and, on Saturdays, do the parts delivery. That was a fabulous job for a young fella and I got to know all the automotive guys in town.”

He wasn’t committed to the aftermarket as a career at that point, and was looking to become an electrician. It was his love of performance that eventually changed that.

“The fact is that I had high performance cars and wandered into Family Auto, where I used to buy a lot of parts, and they offered me a job there, changing tires and oil and that kind of stuff.

“I loved it, it was fantastic. Then about six months after that they made me the store manager. I was just having a ball.”

It was about that time that he met Bruce Brillinger, owner and founder of Mr. Transmission. “He wanted me to come into this business with him and I thought, ‘Transmissions? Who ever does a transmission?'”

A lot of people, as it turns out. That was 1977 and Moore says the past 23 years have flown by.

His first contact with the AIA came in the early ’90s when he was brought on board to help form the Retailers Council.

Fighting for Access

“My biggest concern in the next few years is that the AIA has a real responsibility to make sure that the OE does not choke off the information; that the OE does not come along and either through bullying or legislation say ‘it’s a new ABS system and we haven’t perfected it, therefore we’re not making the data available.’ That’s a real concern.”

He also realizes that it is a battle that cannot just be left for the U.S. aftermarket to fight. OBD II access has been a political football south of the border for years. With the final score yet to be tallied, there have nonetheless been some victories for the aftermarket. In Canada, the battle hasn’t even been waged.

While the aftermarket has dealt successfully with attempts to lock the aftermarket out of some components, the world of electronics ups the ante, and the challenge, significantly. It’s not like drilling a hole in a “lubed for life” bushing and installing a grease nipple.

“You cannot get some of the information that you need to repair vehicles today. There’s no freedom of technology at this point. We don’t have open access to GM’s tech line at any level, or Ford or Chrysler for that matter, or any of the manufacturers.

“We need to get that very clear in the automotive aftermarket that when the consumer buys that vehicle, he’s paid for that technology and the consumer has a right, if he chooses to take his car to ABC Aftermarket Outlet, that he can bring the technology with him.

“The day is not going to be finished until we get it done.”

The New Players, The New Competitors

“One of the responsibilities that the AIA has to the public is to debunk this misconception people have that if you buy a product that says General Motors on it, that General Motors made it. I could tell you right now that that is not true.

“General Motors is using their marketing now to launch and sell product which is being made in the aftermarket, but bantered as an OE product.”

This specifically talks to the Delphi situation, says Moore, who is concerned that it will play on its OE connection while selling product made in the aftermarket.

“The AIA is going to take up a position here at some point and say, ‘Let’s just play fair. Tell people that it might say GM on the box, but that’s not what’s in it’. That is going to be an issue that AIA is involved in. We need full disclosure here. We want to protect the integrity of the industry.

“That’s why we want Delphi at the table. As far as I’m concerned, let them come on board. I want to get them on our Government Relations Committee and have those frank conversations.”

Though he had no way of knowing it at the time he made that comment, Delphi’s business in Canada brings with it some familiar faces: Cle Smith, as manager, and Emmett Grant, as a consultant, were named to launch Delphi’s business in Canada. Both have solid traditional aftermarket backgrounds and both are former chairmen of the association.

The Image Challenge

In addition to the very important aspect of boosting the image of the technician by using technology, there are other programs designed to operate on different levels. Two of these are the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Moore has a very different view on each.

“MAP is going to turn out to be a great tool for the technician. It gives them an opportunity to really do things in a professional manner. It’s not just a glossy poster and the window sticker, but a procedure to follow it up. And that’s what is important, the procedure.”

The MAP procedures detail what is involved in an inspection of a number of automotive systems.

“It’s not just some glamorous marketing idea. Every MAP facility will be checked to make sure that they can comply with what MAP stands for. Integrity is built into the system, so that over the process of time, it will take on its own meaning.”

Moore says, though, that the ASE program has faltered at the installer level, and may have lost important momentum.

“The parts specialist program went well because at that point there was an endorsement for the parts counterperson, that gave them some recognition and was really promoted by WD programs.

“The technician has failed to embrace ASE because of the [apprenticeship] process currently in Canada. ASE certification does not have the recognition in this country that it has in the United States, where those types of programs do not exist. So, we never got a buy-in from the technicians. We couldn’t get a buy-in from most of the teachers at the colleges either. The students they teach were thinking that if the teacher doesn’t need it, why do they need it?”

The solution? “We need the autonomy to do it in a Canadian style, under a Canadian banner, to make it fly in Canada. I really believe that. That’s what we got from MAP in the end, which was terrific. That’s what really made it accelerate. We just can’t seem to get that way with ASE. I think it would make a big difference.”

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