By Denny Kahler, AAM
I'm writing this column having recuperated from a busy "Industry Week" in Las Vegas. And what a week it was! Much was accomplished for both the collision and mechanical segments of our industry. ASA's two shows - the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS), and the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) - were big successes this year, and discussions are already under way to make the 2006 events even better!
Between now and Industry Week '06, there's one issue I hope we, as an industry, can resolve: unneeded right to repair legislation that has fractured our industry. I don't know how to express it any more clearly than to say in today's repair environment, if I need data to repair a vehicle, I can get it. It's a fact. To invite governmental regulation into a situation that is working voluntarily by all involved parties simply makes no sense. Yet, the legislation debate continues.
One of ASA's pre-CARS events Nov. 2 was the hosting of the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) meeting at The Mirage. The key announcement from that meeting was that the task force participants, by unanimous vote, decided to move forward on the formalization of NASTF. This is great news for the industry, and I agree with Ron Pyle's statement during the meeting that it's important to keep the task force free of politics. (Also of great importance to our members, the group plans to enhance its services to better inform collision repair professionals moving forward.)
The automakers have kept their commitment for the past three years since ASA signed a voluntary agreement with them to ensure that the same service information, training information and diagnostic tools provided to franchised new car dealers are also provided to independents. NASTF has played a major role in the success of the 2002 agreement, and the formalization of the task force will only make it stronger and more effective. Our industry is receiving more technical information than ever before. Continuing to work through NASTF - and now enhancing its efforts through formalization - provides our industry with even greater assurance of the strength of ASA's agreement with manufacturers.
Our focus is laser-sharp when it comes to those we represent. ASA has the distinction of serving only those businesses that perform service and repairs for the motoring public. When it comes to the automotive service information issue, we know it inside and out, and stand by our agreement. Working in conjunction with NASTF to address future service information issues that could arise is the best option for our members and our industry. This inclusive, voluntary organization involves everyone - automakers, independent repair shop owners, technicians, aftermarket information providers, trainers, aftermarket manufacturers, distributors and others interested in moving our industry forward. It's vital that NASTF continues to be comprised of representatives from the service and repair industry - the professionals who have their heart in this industry.
ASA recently participated in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) meetings arranged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and we were disappointed when the talks did not resolve the service information debate. However, progress was made on several levels, and with the formalization and added staff proposed for NASTF, ASA continues its opposition to right to repair legislation. Federal intervention in the service information issue is not the answer. Support of NASTF is the best thing for the industry - an industry process allowing us to work together toward problem solving versus regulation and litigation.
Visit www.TakingTheHill.com to review a variety of documents on this issue. If our voluntary service information process fails, ASA will be the first in line to ask Congress for help. We see no signs of failure to date.