Members to explore the idea of appointing a full-time position to direct day-to-day activities of the task force.
By Amy Antenora, managing editor
ARLINGTON, VA — Last week, the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), and a number of parties associated with the group, met for a conference call to discuss the possibility of moving forward with one of two different proposals for creating a more formalized, permanent structure for the task force.
Currently, NASTF is a strictly volunteer-led organization. The group, comprised of members from automotive manufacturers, dealerships, equipment and tool makers, service outlets and their various associations, was created in 2000 as a not-for-profit, no-dues task force to facilitate the identification and correction of gaps in the availability and accessibility of automotive service information, service training, diagnostic tools and equipment and communications for the benefit of automotive service professionals.
As attention to the Right to Repair issue has increased over the past year, so has interest in and use of NASTF. The group is now looking for ways to increase efficiency and productivity through a more permanent organizational structure.
The conference call, which had about 50 listeners and participants, was intended to open up a dialogue and answer questions about the best way to go about a possible reorganization of the group. Once that is decided upon, the group wants to look at the possible creation of a paid, full-time position to serve as the key point person for NASTF. The full-time position would be responsible for administrative support for the group.
According to NASTF Chair John Cabaniss, who works for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the group received strong support for the concept when it was discussed at the most recent NASTF meeting held Nov. 2 during Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week in Las Vegas. The idea was originally proposed by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association at the NASTF meeting in Vegas in 2004.
“In general, nearly everyone supported the concept of moving forward,” said Cabaniss. “There were some reservations, but in general there was some pretty good support to move ahead.”
Also during the call, Aaron Lowe of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association provided an update on the most recent congressional subcommittee hearing regarding the Right to Repair legislation. Lowe pointed out that the hearing had unusually strong attendance and healthy, open discussion of the issues.
The introduction of the Right to Repair legislation into the discussion prompted this comment from NASTF Tool/Equipment Committee Chair Charlie Gorman, executive manager of the Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI), “What I’ve learned from this process so far is that you can’t separate Right to Repair from NASTF at this point,” Gorman said.
In a letter to NASTF members from November, Gorman noted that NASTF was mentioned in recent Right to Repair testimonies 116 times.
“We need to solve those issues for once and for all, so that we can decide the direction in which we are going to head in,” said Gorman. “If we don’t have buy-in across the board from key organizations and people, I’m not sure how much legitimacy would be attached to NASTF. Certain factions would just continue to do what they are doing now. So it has to be real. Let’s just do it right the first time. You can still have a sunset clause. I think we can do a better job of organizing up front if we get all the parties involved.”
While they were not discussed in detail during the call, there are two proposals being presented for a formal reorganization of NASTF one from the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Institute, the other from ETI.
For its offer, ETI is proposing to help oversee administrative and support functions of NASTF with the addition of a full-time staff person as well as the creation of a steering committee comprised of representatives from each technical committee and financial supporter of the plan. ETI said it envisions a three-year trial phase that would cost about $150,000 per year. A proposed steering committee would be made up of about 18 people from various ‘stakeholder’ organizations representing the various market segments involved. These include shop owners, technicians, dealers, tool companies, trainers, locksmiths, consumers, OEMs and parts manufacturers.
The SAE Institute is proposing a similar idea, however theirs would place more emphasis on a more formal governance structure. The SAE Institute was created by SAE International to assist other organizations by providing high-quality organizational development, association and project management. In its proposal, SAE Institute offers to work with NASTF leaders through a series of facilitated sessions to help efficiently create a responsive organization that reflects the group’s desire to encourage fair and open communication, credibility and accountability. SAE’s plan would also be based on a three-year agreement, however, it estimates a cost of $270,000 per year.
During the call, members debated about the size of the proposed steering committee or board of governors and whether it made sense to have a smaller group work to represent and communicate the interests of the entire organization. Some members of the group complained about the slow process of moving forward.
NASTF member Ron Pyle, chief executive of ASA, said, “The concern I have is that the longer you wait to move the process forward and the longer that people are still trying to determine the purpose, the agendas of the individual stakeholders and the impact of Right to Repair on the whole process, what Congress may choose to do, in terms of affecting this whole process, remains totally out of our control. If we are proactive and take the proper steps to insure that this is an alternative that works for all the stakeholders then we are likely to get something that we would all be able to buy into rather than something that was forced down our throats that none of us would be happy with.”
Pyle also added that it is important to point out this proposed board or steering committee would not have the authority to make decisions for the entire group, and would only make recommendations.
Details of the two proposals will be reviewed during the task force’s next meeting. SAE has offered to facilitate the meeting, expected to take place in late January, at its Michigan facilities at no charge.
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