CARS 2002 RecapPosted 1/14/2003
"Taming Automotive Technology" was the theme of the convention, highlighting the educational programming of the show. CARS offered three Automotive Management Institute seminars and eight technical courses.
For the first time, CARS was officially part of the Industry Week activities concurrently held in Las Vegas. To mark the opening of CARS, Thursday, Nov. 7, was Service Professionals Day at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX). ASA representatives cut the ribbon opening that day's AAPEX.
Bob Redding, ASA's Washington, D.C., representative, provided an update on the association's legislative activities, emphasizing the difference ASA members made in the association's agreement with manufacturers calling for full and affordable access to diagnostic tools, service information and training. As an exclamation point to the information availability agreement, 11 automobile manufacturers demonstrated their service information Web sites at CARS.
Rounding out CARS were an exhibitor's showcase, valuable prize giveaways, an Industry Week reception co-hosted by iATN, and the Forum on the Future of Emissions I/M and Safety Inspections.
CARS Chairman Opens Convention
Playing off the word "taming," CARS was set in a circus-like atmosphere, where wild animal tamers train the big cats, elephants and other animals. Dohner drew several parallels between the circus and repair shops during the opening general session.
Some basic truths apply to both the circus and automotive shops, Dohner said. Specifically, those that are the most successful understand the necessity of having "well-trained employees, from top to bottom, who know what's expected of them and who have been given the knowledge, skills and tools to perform their jobs well."
If a spectator leaves the circus dissatisfied, Dohner said, it's likely they won't return the next time the circus is in their town. If a customer leaves a shop dissatisfied, it's likely another shop will see that car the next time it needs servicing. "Like the circus, we need to put a smile on our customers' faces," Dohner said. We can do that by having well-trained people who can fix cars right, he added.
Dohner also compared the cost of going to the circus - the ticket, programs, soft drinks, popcorn, hot dogs, cotton candy and souvenirs - to the real cost of a repair.
"By the time the curtain goes down, you've made quite an investment. But, if your family was entertained, you don't mind making this investment," Dohner said.
"If we make the right investments, our customers won't mind making an investment in us," Dohner said."In Brookville, Ohio, my garage is the most expensive in town. It's also the busiest because my customers know I invest in only the best: the best parts, people and training.
"How do my customers know that I only invest in the best? Because my employees and I taught them. We taught them with words, by spending just a few minutes explaining things about their cars, the work we performed, and the people and parts that touched their cars. We also taught them with our actions. The right diagnosis. The right repair. The right attitude," Dohner said.
With the emphasis of CARS being education - both technical and managerial - Dohner concluded his general session remarks by congratulating and thanking the attendees for making investments in their professional training so they will be better able to tame automotive technology.
CARS Attendees Told ASA Members Making a Difference
Redding highlighted the impact ASA members had on the successful efforts to ensure complete access to automobile manufacturer service information. At the association's 2002 Annual Convention held in the nation's capitol, members made nearly 200 visits to representatives' offices, calling attention to the critical need for independent service professionals to have full access to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) information.
ASA's Capitol Hill Day concluded with a Congressional Reception where petitions signed by thousands of industry professionals and motorists were presented to U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., cosponsor of the information availability legislation in the House of Representatives.
As a result of ASA's Capitol Hill visits, "we doubled House co-sponsorship and secured Senate sponsorship of the Motor Vehicle Owner's Right to Repair Act," Redding said.
On July 30, a U.S. Senate hearing concluded with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., directing the automotive industry to resolve the information availability issue. "The message was loud and clear," Redding said. "Independent repairers deserve the same information, tools and training as dealerships."
Previously, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., delivered the same message: "Work this out," he said, adding that if the industry did not find a solution the Senate would consider emissions and non-emissions service information only.
Following Dorgan's directive issued during the hearing, ASA worked with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers to get the Service Information Availability agreement in September. The agreement calls for independent service professionals to have, by Aug. 31, 2003, the same level of access to repair information, diagnostic tools and training that is provided franchised dealer shops.
"The agreement is all-inclusive," Redding said. It is not limited to service information.
The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will enforce the agreement. In a meeting with the OEMs and Redding, the U.S. House Commerce Committee told the manufacturers they will be held accountable for complying with the agreement.
ASA and the OEMs are required to provide periodic updates on the progress of the manufacturers' compliance with the agreement. ASA will provide its first progress report before the end of 2002.
Eleven automakers showcased their service information Web sites at CARS, enabling ASA members to see how the sites are being developed. Members were also afforded the opportunity to provide feedback to assist the manufacturers as they finalize their Web site designs.
"Without the agreement, they [manufacturers] would not be here," Redding said. "ASA is operating in good faith. We have to believe the manufacturers are acting in good faith also."
ASA's record of working for service information availability did not begin this year. As far back as 1989, ASA met with congressional leaders to ensure independent service professionals were not locked out of information as a result of clean air legislation. "ASA's efforts were successful then and were right on the mark when it fought for and received 'reasonable cost' language in the Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations," Redding said.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforcement of the CAA and subsequent amendments to the original act did not occur to the level desired by ASA. Repeatedly, ASA has met with regulators and "begged them to enforce the regulations," Redding said.
Other major policy issues ASA is tackling are emissions and safety inspections.
Time and again, the benefits to both the environment and people of emissions inspections have been demonstrated. The American Lung Association recently reported auto emissions continue to have a significant detrimental health impact, especially on young children, senior adults and asthmatics, Redding said. Emissions testing identifies high-polluting vehicles so proper repairs may be made, resulting in the reduction of a range of pollutants and carcinogens.
Regarding safety issues, Redding said ASA is often forced into a position of being "defensive rather than offensive." Too much time, he said, is spent on defending existing inspection programs in states where legislatures are considering reducing or eliminating them.
"Not enough time is being spent promoting new programs or improving existing ones," Redding said. There is no entity promoting safety inspections. "It's time we turned this around." Redding concluded his remarks by stating, "This year proved our members can make a difference. With an organized message, articulated by its members, ASA can be effective in causing positive change in the industry."
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