The incoming president of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA) says the concerns of auto repair professionals will continue to be a high priority under his leadership.
Jean-Francois Champagne said even though automotive service providers (ASPs) cannot be direct members of the association, he’s “mindful of the role they play” and will continue to advocate on their behalf to governments and other industry players.
He said AIA is focused on ASP concerns, such as the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS) agreement.
“We will continue to play a role in the CASIS agreement… and the ones who benefit from the CASIS agreement are ASPs,” he said. “So while ASPs may not see themselves as potential members of AIA, I think they see AIA as a voice that speaks for the aftermarket, and ultimately supports their industry.”
He said many associations these days are reinventing their understanding of the term “membership,” with a higher emphasis on engagement by industry players.
“I think if you want to be the voice of an industry, it’s more than just counting the number of members. Rather, it’s about your capacity to mobilize people. I like to think that around big issues, AIA will be able to rally not just WDs and jobbers, but also ASPs. In that sense I like to think of ASPs as members of the larger AIA family.”
The CASIS agreement is near the top of the list of ‘big issues’ that the association will keep tabs on, he said. In fact, he believes the next phase of CASIS will be the extension of the right to telematics data.
“Access to information is very much about direct access to the vehicle,” he explains. “But we know that as things evolve, we’re going to have access to information through wireless link to the data within the vehicle. The discussion has turned to who owns that data, who has access to the data, and, with specific interest to ASPs, the capacity to service vehicles will hinge on their ability to access that information.”
He believes AIA could also prove helpful in finding new avenues to assist in training initiatives.
“We are already involved in professional development through the I-CAR program, which is focused on the collision repair industry,” he said. “There may be opportunities for expansion into professional development on the mechanical side of the business, either for jobbers or ASPs.”
Having said that, AIA will not create new programs that would compete with existing ones.
“If we find new opportunities for professional development, they should complement programs that are already out there,” he said.
AIA will continue to stress the importance of vehicle maintenance to public officials and consumers, Champagne said, even if there’s not much appetite among governments for more stringent vehicle inspection programs.
“I think our Be Car Care Aware campaign, which is intended to give jobbers and ASPs tools to better inform the public about proper maintenance, is a great one that dovetails with our efforts toward advocacy about vehicle safety,” he said.
He also wants to ensure that AIA continues to play a role in gathering key industry data through research projects.
“We have heard from many stakeholders that they need benchmarking information… We’d like to provide that as a neutral body.”
Champagne, who took over as president from Marc Brazeau, who left AIA to take a position with Uni-Select, has started criss-crossing the country to meet members and attend industry events. Within his first month on the job he’d already been to Edmonton, Quebec, Moncton, Toronto, and Ottawa.
“It has been a lot of time on the road, but lots of fun too,” he said. “It’s nice to meet the people behind the industry.”