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  Mechanical Feature

Industry Issues and Trends

Posted 1/16/2004
By Levy Joffrion

Service Information Availability, Shop Licensing, CARS Top Mechanical Division Priorities

2003 was a very good year for ASA's Mechanical Division. A banner year. A year full of achievements.

And 2004 promises to be even better.

But issues and concerns remain, as well as opportunities.

Still the No. 1 priority for the Mechanical Division is service information.

The division's second priority is shop licensing.

Also a priority is the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS); to make it bigger and better than ever for 2004.

And of course, still offering opportunities for bettering the lot of repair professionals are the issues of voluntary inspection, emission I/M, the school-to-work program and maintenance-free vehicles.

Although to the casual observer the battle for equality in service information may seem to be over, there's still work to be done. In 2002, automakers and ASA reached an agreement calling for manufacturers to provide independent repairers with the same service information, training and diagnostic tool capability they provide dealerships. The agreement called for the manufacturers to all have service information available at Web sites for all systems on an automobile - both emissions and non-emissions - by Aug. 31, 2003. Prior to April 1, 2003, all had complied.

But there's still work to be done. Manufacturers are making progress in addressing how training will be available. At the same time, automakers are making their diagnostic equipment available, while working with the Equipment and Tool Institute to make tool information available to aftermarket tool and equipment companies.

Since automakers continue to develop new technologies in automotive systems that will lead to more sophisticated methods of diagnosis and repair, ASA's Mechanical Division must make sure the same capabilities are available to all automotive service professionals.

ASA will continue to work with the OEMs to ensure they live up to their agreement. Over the next few months, members of the Mechanical Division Operations Committee will evaluate each OEM Web site to determine the level of service information that's available, if it can be accessed easily and if the cost is reasonable.

The division plans to strengthen current relationships between the OEMs and independent repairers, and will work toward establishing new working partnerships with OEMs that will prove to be beneficial to ASA members.

Division leaders also plan to put forth the message that there is nothing preventing a shop from performing service, diagnosis and repairs on any vehicle. In addition, the division has been working diligently to make automotive service professionals aware of what is available and assisting members in taking advantage of those resources.

The shop licensing subcommittee will be working with Robert L. "Bob" Redding Jr., ASA's Washington, D.C., representative, to finalize guidelines for shop licensing. The subcommittee has been focusing on training and equipment requirements. Members of the subcommittee believe all employees of a shop should receive at least 36 hours of approved continuing education each year. And, a shop must have adequate equipment or access to equipment relevant to the services it provides. Moreover, it must comply with all local, state and federal regulations.

Upon completion of the guidelines, the subcommittee will assist Redding in developing a strategic initiative for introducing shop licensing legislation in key states.

Plans for CARS 2004, to be held Nov. 4-6 in Las Vegas, are already on the drawing board. Along with a new location (the Flamingo Hilton) will be a new lineup of technical and management classes. The Exhibitor Showcase will include some old and new faces. And, a few "never-before-seen-at-CARS" events are on the horizon.

Noteworthy: CARS is the only show during Automotive Industry Week to focus on the needs of owners of independent automotive service businesses.

Because many members have expressed interest in ASA establishing a voluntary inspection program at the national level, the Mechanical Division has established a subcommittee to investigate the matter. The subcommittee will work on ways to promote ASA recognition and to establish consumer awareness and recognition of the program. The inspection might be tied into the "Be Car Care Aware" program that is widely advertised and recognized by the industry. The voluntary inspection subcommittee will also be looking at establishing a national initiative to remove mercury from vehicles.

The issue of emissions testing and state implementation programs continues to be a viable concern throughout the nation and one in which ASA will continue to be involved. ASA's board supports states' right to develop the type of program that the state will adopt, but the emissions testing subcommittee believes ASA must take a more active role in establishing a defined strategy in expanding ozone attainment areas.

Much of the school-to-work subcommittee's effort in 2004 will be directed toward increasing awareness, among ASA members, of the PRO-TECH Automotive Service Program. The program is designed to provide training for independent repair technicians equivalent to that provided for dealership technicians by the OEMs. The subcommittee wants to get the word out that any shop anywhere in the United States can participate in the program.

Under the program, a student is enrolled in a two-year, college-level training sequence that leads to an associate degree in applied science with a major in automotive technology. The Automotive Technology Department at Oklahama State University-Okmulgee administers the program's activities.

Half of a student's two-year training is conducted at OSU-Okmulgee; the remaining time is allocated for on-the-job experience through employment at an automotive service center.

The automotive service center is responsible for selecting the student and paying the student while he or she completes an internship at the service center.

Also part of the school-to-work subcommittee's effort this year will be reviewing the first draft of its input to the Automotive Training Managers Council to help in creating Guidelines for Technician Recruitment. And, to help create a higher-quality version of the ASA career brochure, Automotive Technician. A Challenging and Changing Career.

The maintenance-free vehicle subcommittee will be working on a brochure designed to explain to customers the value of preventive maintenance and to help unravel the myth of the "100,000-mile," maintenance-free vehicle. This will be a new member benefit that will assist shops with helping consumers understand the value of maintaining their automobiles.

For the past four years, Bill Filley, owner of Prairie Road Automotive in Eugene, Ore., has served as Mechanical Division director. Under his leadership, the division has scored a win for the home team on service information, achieved much success in maintaining a strong wall of defense against some recurring issues, and tackled - head-on - various new issues.

In 2004, ASA national mechanical members will elect a new director. This person will continue the direction, purpose and dedication that have been established by previous operations committee members and division directors. He will bring his knowledge, experience and leadership to the committee and work with the committee to maintain focus on identifying and solving issues affecting the automotive service professional.

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