Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2006   by Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

Our Image Problem

Our industry suffers from a bit of a complex.

The public at large doesn’t think as badly of the independent aftermarket (and its most public face, the service provider) as we think they do, as evidenced by high rankings independents regularly receive in the annual J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Still, image remains a central issue in every sector, and every year industry leaders beat the drum yet again; we must all join to build the image of the industry, they say. Then too often, both in the bays and in the media, the mudslinging starts. While many skilled tradespeople are prone to criticizing the work of others, that doesn’t make it right — whether it’s one-on-one with the customer in the shop or in an ad campaign.

The most recent example is the one run by the Carstar collision network. In one spot, a doctor in a television ad declares that they “didn’t quite use the right part” in replacing a male patient’s hand with a woman’s. The tagline, “What if emergency rooms treated you like some collision repair shops?” amounts to unequivocal slagging of the competition. In the radio ads, a character with what I can only describe as a “wise guy” accent–a decision that is in itself startling, considering Carstar president Sam Mercanti’s heritage–insinuates that collision shops other than Carstar will bait and switch on estimates.

When the company launched the campaign, the ad agency called it a “white knight” strategy. I, for one, am not fooled. Saying a hurtful thing is not made less so if I laugh as I say it. A company that is a leader in the collision repair industry, and whose executive vice-president and co-founder, Larry Jefferies, has served as chairman of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, should have spent its half-million dollars in advertising to accentuate the company’s positives.

That’s what the U.S. Carstar organization did, with its very down-home, “Relax, we’ll take it from here,” theme.

There are very few organizations in Canada that have the resources for national consumer marketing, so it’s disappointing when one takes a negative approach.

The best thing I can say about the whole campaign in Canada is that I only heard the radio spots recently, and had to search down the television spots on the Internet, despite the fact that the campaign has apparently been running for some months now. Perhaps the public at large will have paid a similar lack of notice, and feel no differently about the industry than it did before.

Few things make someone look worse than dragging down the competition.

Let’s hope for better from all players down the road.

From all of us here at Jobber News Magazine, here’s wishing everyone in and out of the aftermarket a happy holiday season, and a prosperous, safe new year.


Sometimes events of the day overtake the written word. Such was the case with the federal government’s “Green Plan” announcement late this fall, which was very different from what was anticipated. It contained very little in the way of changes for the automotive industry–not much in the way of anything, actually. Despite my concerns expressed in November, as a living breathing human, I somehow feel worse about the resulting inaction. How a government, regardless of its allegiance or colours, can portray stepping back from global commitments as a step forward is beyond me.

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