“Collaboration” was the predominant theme at the Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) 2013 ToolTech event, held April 23-25 at the Hyatt Mission Bay in San Diego. A host of representatives from across the aftermarket industry presented ToolTech attendees with their insights and concerns about the future of the aftermarket and its relationships with the OEMs.
The automotive aftermarket continuously and increasingly faces the tough challenges new vehicle technology brings, such as flash reprogramming, new refrigerants, training and access to information. Independent repair shops are finding it harder than ever to find qualified techs as well as the tools and information needed to complete the necessary repairs and maintenance. The schedule of events at ToolTech 2013 focused on what the members of ETI can do to collaborate with OEMs to try and solve some of the many issues shops are facing today.
At the event’s business meeting, Charlie Gorman, executive manager, ETI, announced the new board members, including new president, Ben Johnson of Mitchell 1. Immediate Past President Dan Brass welcomed Johnson to his new position in a change of command ceremony.
After the technical and marketing reports by Gorman and ETI marketing manager Jessie Korosec, respectively, presentations were given by Brian Herron, John Lypen and Skip Potter. Herron, of Drew Technologies, spoke on ETI’s J2534 Flash Reprogramming Survey. The survey’s objectives were to measure the market’s current level of familiarity with flash reprogramming; identify the key issues and/or obstacles in successfully implementing and operating flash reprogramming; and learn more about how manufacturers can better assist shop owners and technicians to make it easier and less complicated to implement.
Herron said that a majority of respondents recognized that more repairs will require flash reprogramming in the future, and that if they don’t do flash reprogramming, they will lose business to dealers or to other repair shops. The cost of the J2534 subscription was the most-named obstacle to a shop’s ability to successfully flash reprogram a vehicle. “Respondents across all shops are looking for more cost-effective solutions, with clear instructions, additional training, simplified processes and greater compatibility across all OEM makes and models,” Herron said.
Lypen, of Motor Information Systems, presented the Information Access Market Research Survey Report, saying that 90.7 percent of independent repair shop respondents have commercially available repair information in their shops, with most techs using it more than once a day. They’re mostly looking for diagnostic trouble codes, wiring diagrams and labor time estimates. More than 50 percent of jobs require some service information research.
Potter said the National Automotive Service Task Force’s (NASTF) Service Information Request Program helps techs when they’ve done all they can to find repair information, but are unable to get the information they believe the OEM has. NASTF works to get issues such as this resolved.
NASTF also offers the Vehicle Security Professionals Registry a repository of secure, background-checked vehicle security professionals (automotive locksmiths or repair technicians who specialize in service that requires use of security-related service information).
Keynote Speaker Jim Cunningham, from the Department of Finance and Business Economics at the University of Southern California, presented attendees with “what you need to know about the economy, and how it will affect your business.”
“Although we are technically in a recovery, it is an anemic recovery,” Cunningham said. “Expectations are what really drive investment.” He said expectations matter because people’s beliefs on the economy affect when they make purchasing decisions. Cunningham commented that TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program) was originally intended to bail out financial institutions, which posed a systemic risk to the financial system. He said he felt the TARP bailouts really just helped the UAW (United Auto Workers).
And Cash for Clunkers was really only helpful for six months. Short-term, there was a temporary boost to new car sales. Effectively, it moved sales of new cars in the period when the program was in effect, and had little net long-term effect on sales of new cars.
Another effect was that used cars in good running condition were scrapped not resold and maintained, which increased the price of used cars, and the lack of spare parts made it more expensive to maintain them.
Automotive Industry Collaboration
While the whole ToolTech event was designed around collaboration, members of ETI, AAIA, NASTF and SAE International came together in one panel discussion to specifically talk about how the industry can work together in more meaningful ways. Gorman commented that Right to Repair isn’t winding down.
“There are new issues on the horizon that will require even more cooperation. Issues like telematics, remote OBD and remote diagnostics. These are the Right to Repair issues of the near and foreseeable future,” he said. “If you are for the aftermarket, you need to be for Right to Repair. This is not about pro-legislation vs. anti-legislation. This is about cooperatively solving problems through agreements, legislative or otherwise, that everyone can live up to and support.
“ETI’s board of directors has decided to get off the fence and work with these (AAIA, NASTF and SAE) and other organizations toward common goals, both by providing manpower and financial help,” Gorman said.
Aaron Lowe, of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), said the tool companies are an extremely important part of the aftermarket. He explained the Massachusetts Right to Repair bill, describing how all information has to be provided on fair and reasonable terms, meaning the same tools, software and repair information and all the tools that are available to the dealerships. He commented that the heavy-duty aftermarket and the motorcycle industry are now involved in the lobbying of this issue, and that AAIA is using the Massachusetts bill as a model for a national agreement.
Potter said we should embrace collaboration because it will solve our industry’s problems in the long-term. The objective of NASTF is to help OEMs help independent technicians.
Mark Zachos, of DG Technologies and SAE International, spoke about the Cooperative Research Program, where similar-minded companies can come together to do development work for the common good joint venture projects where numerous organizations pool resources to study a pre-competitive technology, where the results are shared by the participants. The majority of projects are tied to standards efforts, acquiring data, development and validation of the standards.
Shop Owner’s Perspective Panel
Johnson introduced Randy Begin, owner of Mission Hills Automotive and Cass Street Automotive; Stan Rogers, general manager/partner of Gustafson Brothers; and John Gustafson, president of Gustafson Brothers. This panel was invited to ToolTech to offer the toolmakers insights from “the guys who throw away the boxes.” Johnson asked the panel about the trends they’ve been seeing over the past few years.
Begin stated that cars have gotten a lot more reliable. “It’s all about preventive maintenance,” he said. "Check engine lights are warning us before anything goes critically wrong"
“The trends that we see are that the technicians are undereducated,” Gustafson said. “The rate of change in technology is so great that technicians are learning at a much slower pace than that technology.” He would like it to be possible to get the information through the tooling.
Rogers said that soon, every tech will pick up a scan tool on a daily basis because of what cars require. “The electronics, the diagnostic procedure on the new cars is so much different from what it was five or 10 years ago. Even our B- or C-level techs are going to grab a scan tool. But the scan tool has to be user-friendly.” His ideas include the need for tools that can grow with the tech a buildable scan tool that could be customized to the tech’s ability.
And as for bringing people into the industry, Gustafson said, “It’s all of our responsibilities to encourage young people to get into our industry. Their parents need to realize that if you become an A-tech or a Master tech, you can be making a six-figure income.”
Collision Repair and ETI
Moderator Timothy Morgan of Spanesi Americas began the collision repair program by saying “just about every vehicle that is involved in a collision is going to require a scan tool of some sort to be able to put it back together.”
“There is a huge opportunity for ETI and I-CAR to collaborate,” said Jason Bartanen, I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair. He commented that collision repair techs shops still sub-out diagnostics to other repair shops.
Clark Plucinski spoke about the Collision Repair Education Foundation, which was created to help solve the critical shortage of quality entry-level employees and increase the industry’s poor image. He asks, “What are the businesses around the schools doing to support these schools?”
Other presentations included Scott Bolt, MAHLE Powertrain LLC, on aftermarket testing and OEM build information integration. Today, each vehicle can have in excess of 100 ECU modules, he said. A given vehicle platform can have many different versions of a single type of ECU and the capability of each ECU has greatly increased.
Larry Greenberger, Cygnus Business Media, presented an overview of a typical repair shop, as well as mobile tool distributors. Based on his research, Greenberger said the single most important factor in a shop owner making a tool purchase was the immediate need for the repair in the shop. As for tool distributors, one of their most critical issues was understanding/training to keep up with the complexity of tools and equipment.
Jeff Murphy, RTI Division, MAHLE Clevite Inc., moderated the A/C Refrigerant (R-1234yf) Information Panel, with Peter Coll, Neutronics Refrigerant Analysis; Mary Koban, DuPont Flouroproducts; and Ward Atkinson, former chair, SAE ICCC, which tackled the issues that have come forth since the introduction of R-1234yf.
The telematics presentation dealt with the aftermarket needs and the best way to get them without infringing on intellectual property. Gorman moderated the panel, which consisted of Chris Bahlman, Delphi; Bob Beckmann, Beckmann Technologies; Scott Luckett, AAIA; and Ian MacKinnon, AutoAdvantage Group. Remote diagnostics is changing how car dealerships manage customer relationships, using value-added services, such as OnStar, to enhance customer loyalty, Bahlman said. Telematics can help detect vehicle trouble codes, locate an authorized service center, leverage towing services and streamline the service process.
But consumers want choices, says Beckmann. With open standards, he says, consumers benefit by having more choices and convenience while having tighter control of security data, manufacturers provide better product support and increase revenue, independent service providers have more choices and vehicle security professionals receive 24/7/365 support.
Luckett says that the aftermarket needs a standardized software interface and equal access to diagnostic information. MacKinnon believes telematics can bring a better, more efficient solution to vehicle repair.
While the ToolTech schedule is enhanced by the seminars, the One-on-One meetings between tool and equipment manufacturers and the car manufacturers are a highly beneficial aspect of the event, as are the showcase happy hour and the popular golf outing. New this year were the ToolTech Discussion Groups, which provided a venue for communication and collaboration among ETI members focused on giving and receiving targeted feedback, engaging in in-depth discussions, meeting colleagues with similar interests, and gaining a better understanding of pertinent subjects that will benefit their businesses.
The discussion group topics included: Getting the Most Out of Your ETI Membership; Doing Business with the OEMs; Effective Media Relations Practices; and Recognizing Business Opportunities. Attendees learned about creating relationships with the media; how to find the right company to partner with; identifying complementary services and target markets, and much more.
Next year’s Tool Tech will be held April 29 through May 1, at the Fairmont Mission Inn in Sonoma, Calif. For more information, visit www.etools.org.