The chairman of AIA’s Retail Council says the objective of automotive retailers is to provide reputable, professional service to all of their customers and to make customers feel comfortable they can trust their service technician.
But Bryan Held, who is also president and CEO of SMK Speedy International Inc., also notes that to maintain that level of quality of service requires constant vigilance by retailers and particularly by the members of the council.
For example, the council called a special meeting this year to discuss an Automobile Protection Association (APA) study done on the Canadian aftermarket, where they visited select service centres with a car that had a loose battery cable. The result of the study–aired on television newsmagazine W-Five–was critical of that segment of the industry.
“The council believes that the test done by APA was not statistically valid and that the test that was done was one that you would normally not encounter.
“As a result [the APA] tarnished the image of our industry in a way that is probably biased and inappropriate,” Held says.
“We are concerned that our service industry is viewed as reputable and that the automotive aftermarket is seen as having a good reputation for protecting the rights of customers.”
Of course, that means that the industry must employ the right people for the work it performs. That’s why another major issue for the Retail Council is human resource development and recruitment.
“The big issue is recruitment and encouraging people to consider the automotive aftermarket as a career. We have an aging population of mechanics, and a lot of young people today don’t look at automotive service as a potential career, and that is why we are developing recruitment brochures and are putting more focus on training and development,” Held explains.
The Retail Council is also a big supporter of the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP), which accredits service centres to help create consumer confidence.
The Retail Council meets two to four times a year. Some other issues it deals with are health and safety in the workplace, the environment, and government relations. One example on the health and safety side is exposure to asbestos brakes and how to maximize safety. Held says the council works closely with the Government Relations Committee. “In some cases we bring issues to them and in other cases they bring issues to us.”
The Retail Council members include representatives from such companies as Canadian Tire, Sears, Midas, Muffler Man, Mr. Transmis-sion, Certigard (Petro Canada), Goodyear Canada, Beverly Tire, and of course Speedy, as well as distributors such as Carquest, Uni-Select and NAPA. Because of the Council’s interest in human resource issues, the Canadian Automotive Repair and Service Council is also a member of the Council.
Bryan Held is relatively new to the aftermarket. He joined Speedy in 1997 as chief financial officer and in February of 1999 became president.
He has been active in the industry from the start and is in his third year as chairman of the Retail Council.
Held says he enjoys the automotive aftermarket industry. “I particularly enjoy working with the fine group of people that are members of the council and I find it very rewarding.”
He sees the future of the aftermarket as challenging. “Our continued success will require investments in technology and training so that we can continue to provide the high level of service that consumers require.”