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  Guest Editorial

David and the Real Goliath

Posted 8/8/2007
By Donny Seyfer, AAM

With all the mixed messages, it's easy to get confused about who really is for the independent shop.

Right to Repair is a David and Goliath tale, according to some. Problem is, I think we have the characters mixed up. Goliath is not the folks who build cars. Goliath is the whole package of members of the automotive aftermarket who believe David - all of us who repair cars for a living - is too weak and stupid to fight our battles. For many of us, it's not clear where to throw the rocks.

Auto manufacturers are bleeding money. Even the successful ones are spending obscene amounts of money to defend themselves. What are they defending themselves from? Trying to do the right thing for their customers with all sides pulling against them. Money that could be spent on making cars better is instead being wasted sitting in legislative chambers all over the country having the same argument with the same people who will not step up to the pump and make a commitment to their own future.

I have seen firsthand that there are still a considerable number of shop owners and technicians who are buying into Goliath's story. Despite plain-as-day evidence that there are professionals across the country who successfully serve their customers every time, they are waiting for the silver bullet, the magic that will put all automotive knowledge into their brain. Goliath tells them, "Ride my coattails and I will get you all of the information and tools you need for free." In the meantime, they fall further and further behind their competitors who do not listen to these tales.

Collision
This cartoon summarizes the battle between information service advocates such as ASA and proponents of Right to Repair legislation. ASA believes in nonfederal intervention to access technical service information that is readily available to technicians. Proponents of Right to Repair legislation believe Congress should formally regulate the dispersion of that information.
What are those automakers "conspiring" to do? I have been part of their conversations so I can tell you exactly what they are trying to do. They have grand plans to help independent repair shops, even the ones who hate them and call them names. Not very Goliath-like, huh? I would be inclined instead to call them Titanic-like. They are a giant ship that many foolishly think cannot be sunk. I am not going to tell you their motives are completely altruistic, although some of the individuals are.

David, you have the power to tell automakers what you need. Many people have worked hard to make the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) a viable entity. Automakers can't provide you with information that they don't know you need. You have to ask. If you hate the tools they provide, you have to tell them. They are listening. I guarantee it. And the ones who don't listen? Tell the other automakers through NASTF and tell the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Keep in mind one thing: Carmakers are Titanic-like. They don't steer so quickly and have some pretty big fish to fry. In my experience, they will toss out a lifeboat pretty quick if you take the time to yell for help.

Does it feel like you are being played as a pawn? My trade association - ASA - is very important to me because it is made up of people who do the same thing. I, for one, am getting tired of having to beat this issue's drum. I am tired of Goliath attacking our village. Recently, I sent the Car Care Professional Network's (CCPN's) free, unsolicited offer of membership back to them with my regards. I see CCPN's membership offer as an attempt by its creator - the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) - to stake claims on representing the independent repair industry. I won't be a part of it. If you get the same offer, I hope you decline it, too.

David represents independent shops in this ongoing battle - the ones that actually service and repair vehicles. We need to recognize who the real Goliath is - and it's not the automakers.

Donny Seyfer, AAM Donny Seyfer, AAM, is a general director on the ASA board of directors. He is operations manager for Seyfer Automotive Inc., an ASA member-shop in Wheat Ridge, Colo. He may be contacted at donny@seyferauto.com.


 
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