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Executive Interview

Q&A with Autel’s Michael Flink

Flink is director of Sales and Training, Diagnostics, Battery Testing, Immobilizer Tools for Autel North America.

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Flink recently shared with aftermarketNews more details on Autel’s new peer-to-peer Remote Expert platform as well as the company’s early involvement with ADAS and other innovations.

In August Autel U.S. launched its Remote Expert platform to all MaxiSYS Ultra, MS919 and MS909 tablets nationwide. Tell us about this new platform and how it’s been received by customers so far.

Remote Expert is a “peer-to-peer” platform. It allows shops and technicians to connect with vetted experts through their Autel scanner. These experts have the OE equipment and or subscriptions to perform reprogramming and diagnostics functions that the tool owner may not be comfortable doing or cannot do with his current equipment or subscriptions

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The reception has been great. Autel tool owners are finding very quick average response times to their requests. The experts are performing above our expectations for these tool owners and the entire project is to date a great success for both the tool owner and the experts.

What is the process for incorporating customer feedback into new diagnostic products or product improvements?

Autel always looks at feedback from our techline calls and team, our distributors and their sales teams. The tools have a data log built in for customers to report and record issues so we can evaluate if it is a “individual tool” problem or an actual software problem. The latter can then be sent to engineering to investigate and fix or address.

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We also take feedback from our social media platforms and interactions at events and trade shows to develop improvements to the interface and software.

Finally, we have those experts from the Remote Expert platform and several other “tester or long user” customers that we talk with to identify any pain points in not just our tools but the industry in general to develop solutions.

What are some of the trends you are seeing when it comes to sales of diagnostic and battery test tools today?

One of the hotter topics is in the world of EV and Plug-in Hybrids. A need for deeper diagnostics and more information. We are also noticing as tablet and computer performance expectations grow, [there is] a shorter turn time on tools. Where once a scanner was kept for 7-10 years. Now we are seeing a 5–7-year expectation to turn in these in the shop.

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Updating was once something shops held off doing every year. Now with things like ADAS setup procedures changing not just with new models but throughout the year on new and older models, and the new Secure Gateway modules and requirements, technicians are having to keep their tools current and updated just to be able to perform these tasks correctly or to connect to the gateways.

How does Autel set itself apart from the competition when it comes to the quality, features and benefits of its tools? How do techs benefit by choosing Autel?

Autel has always looked at each manufacturer as separate software. We then model the menus and selections after the OE tools. This allows technicians to see a broader range of modules and controllers. It also gives them a deeper list of functions. Finally, by being close to the OE experience it allows them to use their repair information or even OE service information to help navigate. With the everchanging environment of today’s vehicles this is crucial to performing repairs.

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Next, Autel utilizes all our engineering teams and resources to create the best value in each of our tools. Combining information from say diagnostics to improve battery testing or TPMS tools.

Our update program called TCP, [which stands] for Total Care Program, includes an extended warranty on the tool, providing the best support for our product even after the first year or two.

We are seeing increasing adoption of ADAS for new vehicles today, which is a great thing. How does this change the vehicle repair process, and how can Autel help?

Autel was actually one of, if not the first, ADAS calibration systems for the independent repair shops from the automotive aftermarket. We introduced it in September of 2018.

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We integrated the set-up procedures and measurements into our diagnostic software when using the ADAS upgrade. This allows a shop to use their Autel scanner and Autel calibration system as a single source for ADAS calibration.

This software upgrade also lets a shop see and isolate the ADAS modules and systems on the specific vehicle using the ADAS Calibrate button.

As ADAS now becomes closely tied to performing wheel alignments. Autel’s latest offering, the IA900 series. Combines a full Wheel Alignment machine and an ADAS calibration system in a single unit.

Let’s talk about EVs for a moment. As the number of EVs on the road increase over the next few years, what will this mean for diagnostic tools? What will be required to properly diagnose and repair electric vehicles?

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The real issue shops now face is that “coverage” is just not enough. Having EV vehicles listed in your normal scan or diagnostics menu only gives access to the information in the cars PCM or ECM from the OBDII DLC or port. True EV diagnostics requires being able to connect to and directly access the vehicle BMS or Battery Maintenance System. This is attached to the high-voltage EV battery itself. Autel has introduced an EVDiagkit for the Ultra, MS919 and MS909. 

This kit includes an “EV Diag Box” and a set of cables and connectors to attach directly to the BMS on EV vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Additionally, we have two new models: the MSUltraEV and MS909EV that are the scanner with this kit combined. Besides the connectors and box, this adds two new icons to your Autel for “New Energy” diagnostics and “Battery Pack Test,” allowing shops to perform in depth EV analysis and diagnostics.

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Of course, if you are going to start working on EVs you will also need to be able to charge them. Autel’s newest division, Autel Energy, has a complete set of EV charging solutions. We offer both Level 2 and Level 3 fast chargers. These range from a unit for in the shops bay to units they can install in front of their shops or stores to offer EV charging to customers and generate revenue from that service. 

What does Autel have planned for AAPEX this year?

Once again, we will have our large booth in the Main Hall. This will feature the full Autel lineup. With sections for ADAS live demonstrations and all our frames. A large area showing our full line of EV charging options from the Autel Energy division. And of course, the new EV diagnostics tools in action.

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Besides the upstairs booth in the Main Hall, we have a bay in the new Joe’s Garage section downstairs. That bay will have our new IA900 in action on a vehicle. We also have a support booth right beside the bay to answer additional ADAS questions

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