Serviceability's Changing: Will You Survive?
Vehicle complexity and associated serviceability can make or break your shop.
In this industry, change is a certainty, but your survival isn't. The ability to embrace relevant changes and trends in vehicle serviceability will sort out who remains in this industry and who is swept away.
Until recently, changes in vehicle complexity and associated serviceability came slow and steady. These changes were easy to recognize, adapt to and incorporate as professional service providers. In the past few years, however, vehicle complexity and the service information curve have gone vertical. Serviceability's growth has morphed from a linear to an exponential rate. Think of this accelerating, geometric growth as "Serviceability Squared" (S2).
S2 is forcing shops to add a rising number of variables into everyday practices and competencies at a faster pace. S2 has resulted in several emerging serviceability trends that are moving forward at breakneck speed. These trends must be identified before they become reality on shop hoists or floors; synthesized into core competencies to fuel growth; and harnessed by shops to provide traction where it matters. The accelerated growth of serviceability also requires you to be a navigator - capable of reading the horizon, discerning threats from opportunities and charting the course of your shop to sustained profitability.
Trend No. 1: Service Information Will Be Increasingly Securitized
Successful real-world experience with the Secure Data Release Model (SDRM), developed by the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), has established that sensitive, proprietary vehicle security data can be accessed and securely exchanged between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technicians who are registered and vetted by law enforcement - in a manner that maintains the integrity of bona fide technicians, safeguards OEM proprietary interests and protects the privacy of consumers.
Charlie Gorman, executive manager of the Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) and NASTF chairman, acknowledges there are limited cases where legitimate service_ability gaps still exist. He says, "Typically, these are driven by concern that providing certain algorithims to aftermarket tool companies exposes vehicles and vehicle parts to theft and/or damage. In some cases these algorithims are the keys to the kingdom. They can unlock unrelated proprietary functions that have no relationship to vehicle repair. Used incorrectly, harm can come to the vehicle or its occupants.
"It's important that car companies embrace the aftermarket and vice versa," Gorman adds. Many of the current legitimate gaps can be resolved by the expanded use of the SDRM platform. SDRM methodology can be easily applied to other jurisdictions outside the United States, offering a global solution for accessing sensitive service information worldwide.
Bottom line? Shops and technicians should expect vehicle manufacturers to employ more electronic security measures, which will drive an increased need for the use of the SDRM. Technicians should register with the SDRM now so they are comfortable using it before a problem is towed to the shop. Providing simulated service information and SDRM training modules for educators and trainers would enable entry-level technicians to graduate with this knowledge already in their toolbox. One more thing: The fast-paced growth of serviceability is transforming you into the car doctor for your customers. You need to know more. You need to work more. And you are worth more. Make sure the pricing in your business model reflects this.
Trend No. 2: OEMs Are Considering Aftermarket Serviceability From Day One
Change in how automakers provide support to aftermarket service and repair providers is imminent. "The current business model for aftermarket general service repair is broken, and it gets more broken every day," says Mark Saxonberg, manager, Vehicle Diagnostics and Service Support, Toyota Motor Sales USA.
Even with service information readily available directly at a reasonable cost, vehicle technology and associated service technologies continue to gain in complexity. Moreover, the necessity to use this information for nearly every routine repair is becoming unavoidable.
Historically, the aftermarket service and repair industry has always taken care of itself, and it has not been the OEM's responsibility to do so. "Automakers who are now thinking about aftermarket serviceability from day one are serving themselves, the rest of the industry and consumers," says Gorman.
OEMs are now shifting to include aftermarket service support considerations over a vehicle's entire life cycle - from conceptual design through manufacturing to aftermarket support. A game-changing redesign of the OEMs' service support model has emerged for the aftermarket. "I believe that the entire industry will benefit from this trend," says Gorman.
Trend No. 3: Open Standards Diagnostics (OSD) Will Level the Service Landscape
Imagine a world where any technician is able to perform any diagnostic procedure, anywhere, anytime, on any vehicle using common, off-the-shelf laptops and generic interfaces, at an affordable cost-per-use. It's not that far away.
"Today, we stand at the threshold of a game-changing breakthrough in service support," Saxonberg says. The advent of industrywide open standards diagnostics (OSD),
Expanding serviceability options force shops to make a critical business decision each year: Invest another $30,000 to be fully service-ready for the shop's five or 10 most frequently serviced makes, or lose the capability to fully service some customers. Saxonberg says that OSD-based solutions - if properly implemented, managed and regulated - can level the competitive field for franchised dealerships and independent shops. In particular, OSD establishes identical service support systems and software streams for franchised dealers and aftermarket shops; it provides swift, accurate and affordable product support through a vehicle's entire life cycle and string of owners; and it lowers costs for automakers, tool companies, dealerships and shops.
OSD-based solutions will help service professionals navigate S2. "OEMs like Toyota believe that OSD solutions can reshape the global automobile service and repair industry business model and drive uniform, effective and affordable vehicle service and repair capability into all shops - regardless of size, vehicle counts or affiliation," Saxonberg says. In addition, he notes that several other automakers are already authoring their own OSD software solutions that will also put sub-$1,000 diagnostic points of presence into shops with low to moderate car counts in those brands.
Time Is Still Our Friend, But the Meter Is Running
Once upon a time, typewriters and computer keyboards coexisted. There were folks who serviced one or the other, and there were some who recognized computers were the future. There were some who didn't embrace the imminent shift in technology soon enough or who simply chose to remain servicing typewriters. The industry, driven by change, simply passed them by.
S2 is challenging our industry with this same dilemma. No doubt, each of us can think of prior turning points - such as ODB-II or an economic downturn - that sifted out dinosaur facilities and service providers, while others thrived. We can pretend changes in complexity and serviceability won't affect us, let alone shift our customer base. We can elect to be influenced or held back by history, legacy or stubbornness. Or we can make proactive, relevant choices that sustain us and move us forward into industry sweetspots. Either way, the service and repair industry will move on. The question is: Will you opt in or out?
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