Stylists need a license -- auto techs don't!

Licensing is far more important to the aftermarket automotive repair industry than any other political issue, including Right to Repair.


Before I started writing for PTEN I used to do work with TST, which deals with automotive training. I still receive emails from some of the members and today I received an interesting one from Ed Perry of Dolson Tire in Middletown, N.Y.:

Hi Craig,

Has any of the committees given thought to promoting auto tech licensing at the state level through the NY State Department of Education? Seems silly that landscape architects and hair dressers are licensed but we have not risen to that level of a profession. In my opinion it would be good for consumers and the sense of value techs feel for their profession.

Personally, I feel Ed hit the nail right on the head.

Pros and Cons of Licensing

It boggles the mind that the woman who cuts your wife's hair needs a license, but millions of cars are on the road being repaired by the lowest bidder, with the cheapest labor they can find. This is what the customer wants and expects. Quite frankly, society downplays the contibutions that we as an industry make. 

All "important" professions are licensed, and not coincidentally, their services are more expensive. We don't want just anybody operating on tumors or teaching in schools, right? People in these professions can command more money because the education, testing and expense necessary to become licensed essentially winnows the field and makes those in it more exclusive. Less supply with equal demand necessitates a higher price, right?

I believe that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to licensing. True, technicians have to be paid more. That's not so bad if you're a tech and not so good if you are a shop owner. However, Ed Perry himself is an owner of two tire shops, and he understands that higher wages for his techs is his path to greater profit.

If technicians have to be paid more, customers will have to cover the difference. That means no more $100 brake jobs, $70 an hour labor rates, and guys chucking tires on for $10 each. With customers understanding why things are more expensive now, they will in a way be forced to appreciate that automotive repair is a true profession like dentistry and accounting.

This is why technician licensing is far more critical than Right to Repair for our industry. Right to Repair is a race to the bottom: free OE parts blueprints and scan tool software for aftermarket companies to build more things in China, sold back to us "cheap." But, there is no value in cheap when the customer can scan his vehicle with OE software and get copies of OE parts at the local store for peanuts. The customer can essentially bypass everything that makes us money, which is our expertise and knowledge. Make knowledge free and we are forced to cut each other's throats competing for work.

As opposed to this, licensing locks a lot of cheapos out of the business. The parts store cannot install batteries, the stereo store will stop tinkering with cars creating electrical problems, and customers won't be able to buy their own refrigerant and service their own air conditioning systems, thereby polluting the atmosphere. In their place will be licensed professionals that command a price for their expertise. Vehicles will likely be safer and repairs will last longer. It's a win-win.

Enough of me talking, let me ask you: Is licensing the way to go or is it a disservice to our customers?