This year, Motor Age gathered four industry experts (See sidebar: “What was at the table?") for the annual Service Repair Industry Roundtable. Panelists discussed challenges, opportunities, and the future of the industry through topics such as licensure, ADAS, and the importance of connecting with techs around the country—and world.
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Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Motor Age Roundtable.
Responses were edited for length and clarity.
Do you think the liability and dangers of improper ADAS repairs will push licensure of service repair technicians?
Ray Fisher: I think we need to have some sort of credential, whether it’s government-related or whether it’s our own internal mechanism. There’s a lot at stake in these ADAS systems. As an industry we need to be identified as professionals. I think it’s an opportunity for us to step up and show our professionalism.
Matt Fanslow: I find this question difficult to answer because there are a lot of shops that are not addressing ADAS at all. The whole liability conversation is “we don’t know.” Nobody knows. The only thing we have to go on is the John Eagle court case on what could happen. There’s a lot of cars out there that haven’t been aimed properly, that aren’t calibrated properly driving around and that could’ve been in accidents. But I haven’t heard of anyone who’s been taken to task for it.
|Who was at the table?|
Matt Fanslow, Diagnostic Technician and Shop Manager at Riverside Automotive
Pete Meier, Motor Age Director of Training
Randy Briggs, Research and Development Center Manager at CARQUEST Technical InstituteRay Fisher, Executive Director of ASA
Pete Meier: Most of the shop owners, technicians, teachers who might be reading this, who watch our videos are on the higher end of the scale. They’re the techs who do care about doing things rights. But there are so many that are kind of living in comfortable ignorance of what the modern automobile has become. ADAS itself is not overly complicated; any decent technician is going to be able to adapt and use technology just fine. I think as far as liability goes, that’s kind of an unknown quantity that we have yet to see.
Randy Briggs: I have to agree with Matt. There is a glaring unawareness of not only how ADAS systems operate but how the services that both aftermarket and dealer shops are doing now that are not directly ADAS-related but still affect it — something as simple as alignments or changes in ride height, body repairs, brackets that aren’t put back exactly the way they should be. In our research, just about every time there’s an ADAS failure there’s a simple reason behind it — bent bracket, a networking issue, an initialization of a module that wasn’t done properly. Awareness of your current services and how they affect ADAS have to be industry-wide.
Pete: Personally, I think it is time for some type of licensure or credentials that the consumer can rely on in knowing that the repairs are going to be performed properly. With the different technologies that are in place and those on the horizon, these repairs are not as forgiving as they used to be. They have to be done correctly. You could impact the vehicle’s drivability and operational safety.
Randy: I don’t think licensure is necessarily the answer. I think certifications are, and I think they need to be driven by industry practices. In other words, I think these certifications need to come from the inside out, not the outside in.
Pete: I won’t disagree with that, Randy. I think we kind of have a foundational element with the ASE certification program. I know there’s been a lot of discussion among folks in the industry about building on that and adding some type of real-world proof of their book knowledge. I’ll admit, I can take the book test pretty well. I have my ASE Master certification, but I’m not tearing apart a 10-speed automatic transmission. If we’re going to be working on these systems, coupling that book and classroom knowledge along with a practical hands-on experience is essential. It would add much more meat to that credential.
Could you speak to the importance of connecting and collaborating with other professionals at industry events, training events, in organizations, or even online?
Randy: That is an absolute necessity in my mind. In particular, online specialized groups out there are invaluable. Whether it’s ADAS calibrations or reprogramming or just general diagnostics and repair, I don’t know how an independent technician could survive without that type of resource right now, especially when you get into the higher levels of technology that involve such a myriad of little stumbling blocks that you can rarely find in service information.
Pete: There’s also the groups like iATN and Diagnostic Network that have added to the resources and capabilities. With the challenges today and the number of system variations and technologies, no one tech is going to be able to do and know it all.
Randy: We’ve gone from “I know a guy” to “I know a hundred guys.”
Matt: Something that was very important to me as a young tech when I came into the industry was iATN—the dominant online resource for technician and managers at the time. It was a brutal wakeup call to find out just how far I had to go, because I thought I was pretty good, even as a young tech, figuring out cars that others were struggling with. I started to kind of get a big head. But iATN beat me down to realize just how much there was to learn. I’ve learned from iATN, and now you’re getting a similar experience on Facebook, Diagnostic Network. You might think you’re pretty good and then you see someone that is really good and how far you have to go. It gives you something to strive for.