Auto Service World
Feature   March 10, 2016   by Steve Pawlett

Q & A With Jean-Francois Champagne

The newly appointed president
of the Automotive Industries Association (AIA) Jean-Francois Champagne, discussed his new role
as president of the AIA with Jobber News and commented on several areas the AIA is currently involved in.
“My role in AIA will be to move the association forward and allow it to continue to be the voice and resource of the industry. The other is to continue our efforts, on several fronts. These include government relations, industry research for benchmarking, and image building. We want to push forward and offer more research data back to the industry; we have heard from many stakeholders that they need benchmarking information, and we would like to provide that as a neutral body. The last thing is image building, making sure the aftermarket is better known and recognized. These really are the four poles of our association,” explained Champagne.
On the subject of jobber-focused communications, Champagne said the AIA’s forum series would be refocused for next year to be much more inclusive of the jobber segment. “We’ve heard loud and clear from our jobber members that they want to see more active participation by AIA in providing value for their membership dollars. Next year’s forum will have more of a leadership focus, but will still be relevant to the ASP segment.”
“When it comes to recruiting new talent to the industry, we are definitely involved with the community colleges,” continued Champagne. “In fact the AIA formed a partnership with Georgian College last year, and created a student lounge named after the aftermarket to give greater exposure to the people being trained there. We’ve also created a series of job profiles that we’re sharing with the trade colleges.”
Commenting on the importance of the advancement of women in the industry, Champagne said, “We have the support of the Ministry of the Status of Women at the federal level, giving us the opportunity to do some research around this topic. In parallel, we have also created women-focused events, which have been extremely successful. I think it is important to ensure that diversity plays a role within the industry. Like many other industries, we have an aging community. As we talk about bringing new talent into the industry, we also need to speak about diversity. And women play a big role in that. We are coming back again next year with another women’s conference and expectations are very high. Everyone we’ve spoken to has spoken very highly of the product we have delivered at these events.”
On the subject of technician shortages, Champagne said he has been hearing mixed messages. “It appears to me at this point that it might be not so much a shortage of technicians in terms of numbers, but more of a gap in the knowledge base of technicians. It could be we have enough technicians, but not enough technicians who have the knowledge to service the newer technology. It’s a question I am asking the industry at this point.”
The AIA is also focused on promoting vehicle safety. “We have recognized that, from an emissions perspective, government interest is declining. Vehicles are cleaner, so emission levels are not as big an issue to the public as they once were. At the provincial level, the AIA’s focus is very much on safety inspections. It has been the AIA’s position all along that vehicle inspections are a good thing. We have to be cautious that this position resonates with public officials, in the sense that it is beneficial to the public. The average Canadian probably has the perception that they are doing a good job in maintaining their vehicle, when in fact, our statistics show that nearly $14 billion of maintenance work is not being performed. We have to close the gap here, and advocating to government is one way to do that,” said Champagne.
“Our research shows that Canadians do not want new government programs. Where safety inspections come into play has to be in a way that makes sense. I think an inspection at the time of resale is something most Canadians would think is reasonable,” added Champagne.
“I am very proud to lead AIA. We have a very strong association. We have a good group of professionals that work very hard to ensure that AIA continues to be the voice and the resource for the industry. I am amazed at the number of dedicated volunteers we have, coast to coast. We are financially sound. We have the resources to grow. So our role at AIA is not to make a 90-degree turn, but rather to build upon our successes, and recognize that the industry is changing. Where we see opportunities to develop new programs, we should do that,” concluded Champagne. nJN

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