For this year’s roundtable, Motor Age gathered industry professionals (see sidebar “Who was at the table?”) to discuss the biggest challenges facing the automotive aftermarket today, such as advanced vehicle technology, cybersecurity and the technician shortage.
Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Motor Age Roundtable. Responses were edited for length and clarity.
Motor Age: How do you see advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) affecting the automotive aftermarket?
Chris Chesney: The industry is faced with a large challenge to become competent with respect to many of the basic services that we’ve done for years, including alignments, brake service, suspension service, etc. The lack of accuracy with those services in the past that we’ve been able to get away with won’t be allowed when dealing with ADAS systems, because those basic services and systems are assumed to be functioning as designed in order for the ADAS systems to work properly. Much like we tried to preach when anti-lock brake systems (ABS) came out, if the base brake system wasn’t working properly, the ABS couldn’t work properly. The same thing is coming into effect with ADAS. If those systems don’t know where the car is pointed, and we don’t align the cameras in the proper orientation, then those systems may be looking off to the right and not see a vehicle approaching from the left, and thus won’t react — or it could overreact. I see these technologies really changing the window of tolerance for the basic services we already provide.
|Who was at the table?|
Chris Chesney is the Senior Director of Customer training for CARQUEST Technical Institute (CTI).
Pete Meier is the Director of Training for the UBM Automotive Group and Motor Age Technical Editor.Robert L. Redding, Jr. is the Washington, D.C. representative for the Automotive Service Association (ASA).
Pete Meier: A young man at NACE Automechanika Atlanta this past August shared a story where he deliberately set the targets off line, and the vehicle accepted that calibration. There were no hints of codes or issues in the system because the car, as far as it was concerned, was looking straight down the road. But in reality, it wasn’t. It was enough of an angle that when the vehicle’s ADAS system did go into play, it would cause the vehicle to veer out of its lane rather than stay in it.
I agree with Chris — we’ve been at a point for many years where you can’t go by generalities when you’re repairing these vehicles. A message that we have to get out to our audience is that you may decide that you’re not going to align cameras or get involved with the radar systems as a shop or technician, but even routine, basic services are affected by these advanced systems. Another part that comes into play is if you’re not doing it right, what kind of liability are you exposing yourself to? I would think it’s going to be quite a bit if a vehicle that you recently aligned is involved in an accident and evidence shows that the thrust angle was not correct. And that’s what we really have to push to our audience — you can’t just get by any more. You either need to be doing it right or you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
|Robert L. Redding, Jr.|
Robert L. Redding, Jr.: We at the Automotive Service Association (ASA) think this whole movement towards autonomous vehicles and ADAS should increase the importance of safety inspections for the aftermarket and consumers. As of now there are only 16 states that have safety inspection programs. Another aspect of this rapidly changing technology is the value of shop licensing or certification, whether that is done via OEs or state or federal governments. Particularly for associations and training, the move towards these new technologies is a critical juncture. Some repairers have gotten away with not focusing on training in their shops and not participating in meetings, webinars and educational conferences. We don’t see how you can escape these issues and still have a viable business in the future. It’s more critical than ever before to participate and train.
Chesney: Another challenge for the aftermarket is the gap between new technology and the corresponding education. In the past and still today, education comes after a supplier develops a new technology and sells it to an OEM. That technology is implemented into their vehicles and the supplier trains the OEM staff on how it works and how to service it. Those OEM trainers then train their dealer network. Somewhere in that mix, that content eventually makes its way to the aftermarket where repairers will either use the OEM content or use the service information and the content to build tools for the aftermarket so that technicians can work on those vehicles when they show up in the bay. For the last 40 years we’ve always maintained a stable gap between when the technology was developed and when we would learn about it. But over the last three or four years especially — and for the foreseeable future — that process does not serve us fast enough. The technology is advancing so fast that the aftermarket is falling further and further behind to the point that we’re put at a disadvantage. That needs to change.
Motor Age: How has the need for cybersecurity impacted you or your organization and what should the industry as a whole be doing to be proactive?
Redding: This is something that is really important to us. We need to be sure that the bulk of the repairers are educated about these issues and that the baseline for protecting data evolves in a way that does not put legitimate professional shops out of business. In other words, we want to make sure that legislation dealing with cybersecurity is not created in a way that prevents repairers from accessing data.
One thing that is important in this window of time is the Inhofe Amendment, which is included in the U.S. Senate AV legislation. It’s not the only path to an end-game to resolve some of these issues for the automotive aftermarket, but it would be a positive step forward. The language would require NHTSA, with the Federal Trade Commission, to put together a stakeholder group on data access and cybersecurity. All of our interest would be represented from the aftermarket as well as other groups, such as car rental companies, dealers, auto manufacturers and insurers.
Important for all of us is that the elections in November could impact the things that we’re talking about today. Even though we had unanimous support of the AV legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, if the House flips—or not—due to the November elections, then we may be moving into 2019 without some type of AV guideline for states and the federal government, so getting it passed before the election is important.