Rather than constantly clash with carmakers, aftermarket repair shops should band together and become their largest customers for service information.
That was just one of several suggestions about the ongoing “right to repair” battle in Canada made at the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s most recent Knowledge Exchange event.
The Ontario conference, which drew scores of jobbers, shop owners, and part manufacturers, featured a series of speakers who stressed the importance of taking the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS) to the next level.
Michel Julien, principal at Team Xtreme Tech, has worked for 26 years as an automotive technician, owning his own shop for 10 years and specializing in diagnostics, electronics and automotive updating.
Perhaps the most provocative idea came from Quebec diagnostician and entrepreneur Michel Julien, principal at Team Xtreme Tech, who suggested the aftermarket is well positioned to make inroads in vehicle reprogramming if it would just take advantage of its size.
“The revenue from selling repair in the aftermarket is $21 billion a year. Dealership revenue from the sale of repair and service is $5 billion. If you take out the warranty work, it is actually closer to $4 billion a year,” he said. “Just by the numbers alone, we have five times more leverage, five times more buying power with the OEMs than their own dealerships.”
He said banner programs and buying groups that purchased large reprogramming bundles for a discount would have a market advantage and the cash-flow to offer technical support.
“We already get a discount on OEM parts. Update files are OEM parts as well. It makes no sense to have to fight to buy these parts if we could be the OEMs’ biggest customers,” he said. “We could drive this market. We want to maintain vehicles as they should be maintained. That’s our job. And if we want to do it properly, we are going to have to take it more seriously.”
He called for an industry-wide I.T. solution – mirroring what the OEMs have in place for their own technicians.
“This is the direction I think we need to go,” he said. “The turning point is right now. We can’t wait any longer.”
AIA vice president France Daviault said the time has come to mobilize as an industry to resolve issues surrounding the so-called Right to Repair.
AIA vice president France Daviault said it’s no accident this year’s conference focused on the issue of service information, security data, and telematics.
“There really is no time to waste in mobilizing as an industry,” she said. “By the end of the day you’ll hopefully feel an intensifying energy, a movement of sorts, where we are all paying attention to what’s going on – the threats and the opportunities that lay ahead.”
She pointed out that while the CASIS voluntary agreement was seen as a win for the aftermarket when it was signed in 2009, too few repair shops have really taken advantage of the opportunities it represents.
In fact, a survey conducted by AIA revealed that 59% of shops do not visit the CASIS or OEM websites for service information, and when asked if they reflash or reprogram vehicle in-house, 52% of respondents said that they do not.
“Let that sink in,” she said. “The respondents indicated that their solution is to have vehicle serviced at a dealership on behalf of their clients.”
Some of the objections shops have to the current system for accessing service information are: the cost of web access, the cost of scan tools, the cost of technician training, and the risk of getting hung up in difficult repairs without adequate support.
Daviault said the industry needs to:
1) create a process to track gaps in information, and establish central point for reporting gaps and getting resolutions;
2) establish a method for techs to get real time troubleshooting advice from other techs; and
3) mobilize so that everyone is on the same page as it relates to needs and challenges.
“The CASIS agreement can no longer be just a piece of paper,” she said. “We need to ensure that it gets implemented in the work of everyday technicians.”
Check out our Gallery of images from the Ontario Knowledge Exchange Event.