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  Special Feature

Every Shop Owner, Tech Should Attend You Have the Right to Repair

Posted 6/25/2004
By Levy Joffrion


"One perception is you can't repair..."


"...you don't have the info you need..."


"...but in reality, that info is yours!"

OK. So the service information, tools and training we need to accurately diagnose and repair vehicles are available.

Is your shop using that information, those tools and that training?

If not, and you feel a bit at a loss as to exactly how to get started, you and your employees would do well to attend a three-hour course ASA has put together.

"You Have the Right to Repair" is presented by Bill Haas, ASA's vice president of service repair markets. His areas of responsibility include the mechanical and collision divisions, education and training, and relations with the automobile manufacturers. He works toward solutions in many areas such as technician recruitment, technical training and access to service information. Haas, as someone said, "has been there, done that." He has an extensive background in the automotive industry, having served as an automobile technician, shop manager, shop owner, parts counterman and automotive instructor.

One of the first things Haas will tell you is that if your shop doesn't use computers and have Internet access, it must if you're going to stay competitive in the "information age." Sure, there are still the traditional ways of getting information, including manuals you can purchase and getting the help of information providers such as ALLDATA, IDENTIFIX and Mitchell1. The International Automotive Technicians Network can also be a lot of help.

But the automakers have put service information, diagnostic tool information and training materials on the Internet, giving anyone quick and ready access to the same information as franchised dealer technicians.

To illustrate how valuable quick access to information can be, Haas tells the story about a collision shop that's all set to deliver a repaired auto to its owner on a Friday afternoon when it suddenly discovers that one of the vehicle's power windows is not working. The shop could send the car to a dealer or an independent mechanical repair shop to get the window fixed, but it would not get the vehicle back until Monday. That wouldn't make its customer happy and it would add to the cost.

But the collision shop has Internet access, goes to the manufacturer's Web site, calls up the information it needs and has the car's window fixed in five minutes.

A shop's productivity can increase if its technicians have access to a computer workstation with Internet, stresses Haas.

He also talks a lot about industry misconceptions - perceptions vs. reality. For example, one perception is you can't repair because you don't have the information you need. The reality is: service information is available today because of the agreement reached by automakers and ASA (see story on page 14).

Another perception: it costs too much. Truth is, it is affordable. The average cost of accessing a manufacturer's Web site is $20 a day.

Accessing the manufacturer Web sites is easy, says Haas.

All you have to do is go to the ASA Web site, click on related links, then click on service information Web sites. It's just that easy!

Every manufacturer's Web site is included and anyone with a credit card can access any site.

"You Have the Right to Repair" affords attendees an opportunity to visit Web sites free of charge. Haas, who has a computer with Internet access hooked up during a class, shows attendees how easy it is to access a site and exactly what information they will find.

He recommends that shop owners familiarize themselves with the OEM Web sites and register at all manufacturers' Web sites well before they are ready to access information. It doesn't cost anything to register; you don't pay anything until you subscribe - but it means you will be ready when you do need it. Don't wait until you are ready to subscribe before you register, says Haas, because although some sites will approve your registration immediately, some take longer.

All sites are in English, but some also offer information in other languages, including Spanish and French.

It's amazing how much help you can get from the manufacturer sites, says Haas. Honda, for example, not only tells about a part, but tells you how much it costs and where it is available nearest to your location.

The OEM sites tell you what tools are available and also, what training is offered. You can make the training available to your employees.

OEM Web site access charges vary, but most companies offer short-term (24 or 72 hours), monthly and annual access. For example, Toyota has been offering 24-hour access for $10, monthly access for $50 and a year's subscription for $350.

Haas offers many tips on how to optimally use the Web sites with an eye toward financial control. For example, it's cost-effective to save information you've paid for so that same information can be used by other technicians who at some point will be making the same repair. Although technicians need access to OEM Web sites, the shop owner may want to get a credit card in the name of the shop with a $500 (or whatever) limit so that he or she won't be surprised by how much technicians have charged in visiting OEM Web sites. The credit card should be used solely for that purpose, and it's important to establish shop policies as to who can access OEM Web sites, when, etc.

He also discusses the dilemma faced by many shops: should they charge their customers for the costs involved in accessing Web sites? Some shops say yes, some say no (see story on page 16).

All this - and much more - is included in "You Have the Right to Repair," which step by step tells you how to maximize use of OEM Web sites. It's full of useful information, including staff and training as well as financial considerations. It'll enable you to fix cars better and faster the first time. Moreover, the course is approved by the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) and attendees earn six hours of credit toward the Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation offered by AMI.

The class concludes with an analysis of current service information availability issues, including what the industry puts at risk should any right to repair legislation become law.

Haas says, "Today, shops are able to access OEM service information, training and diagnostic tools through the manufacturer Web sites. The availability of these three critical elements has challenged technicians for many years. These obstacles have been removed, and now it is time for the industry to use this information to be more effective in repairing vehicles to the customers' satisfaction."

The class will be offered at several ASA affiliate events this year and will be part of the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) lineup Nov. 6, as well as part of the International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE) lineup Nov. 3. The Automotive Management Institute (AMI) had Haas present "You Have the Right to Repair" May 1 at the Northwest Automotive Trades Association meeting in Seaside, Ore., May 15-16 at an ASA-Rhode Island meeting in Warwick, R.I.; and on May 22 at an AMI seminar sponsored by ASA in Indianapolis. AMI will have Haas present the class on June 26 at an ASA-Washington meeting in Pasco, Wash.

"You Have the Right to Repair" can also be sponsored by other industry groups on request.

For more information about the class or to schedule "You Have the Right to Repair," call Haas at (800) 272-7467, ext. 222 or e-mail him at billh@asashop.org.


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