Need for auto aftermarket cooperation highlighted at ETI Tool Tech

A host of representatives from across the aftermarket industry came together to share insights and concerns about the future of the aftermarket and its relationships with the OEMs during the recent Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) 2013 ToolTech event, held at the Hyatt Mission Bay in San Diego.

ETI works to ensure tool and equipment manufacturers have what they need from the OEMs to make aftermarket tools available to automotive repair shops. The gathering included various aftermarket organizations that are recognizing the need to work together, given the challenges facing the industry.

Keynote speaker James Cunningham, a professor at the University of Southern California's department of finance and business economics, noted that while the overall economy is making a slow recovery from the recession, slower than any other historical recession, the automotive aftermarket is anticipating another year of steady 3.5 percent annual growth. New car sales are still not at or above pre-recession levels, he said, as the average age of car is now 11 years, up from 10 and vehicles need maintenance. 

Aaron Lowe, vice president of government affairs for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, gave an overview of the Massachusetts Right to Repair law and how the Right to Repair issue will affect the industry going forward. The Massachusetts law requires carmakers to make available diagnostic repair information to aftermarket scan tool companies and to third party service information providers with appropriate licensing contractual or confidentiality agreements.

Carmakers and aftermarket organizations have been meeting to discuss a national agreement based on the Massachusetts law, Lowe said.

One issue that needs to be better understood, Lowe said, is how the industry will address telematics, he noted.

The meeting featured a shop owners' perspective panel. Three shop owners offered ideas on what tool and equipment advancements they would like to see.

The panelists agreed that technicians are coming out of school not entirely prepared to enter the service bay. Training is necessary just to get them to a "c" level technician status, which they agreed is time consuming. The shop owners suggested that the more step-by-step instructions that could be included in scan tools for specific make and model repairs, the easier it would be for a shop owner to help these technicians train and service more vehicles. They are looking to the manufacturers to get all of the repair information into one tool, preferably PC based, keeping techs at the fender. 

Larry Greenberger, group publisher of the transportation group at Cygnus Business Media, gave an overview of the end users of tools and equipment. Greenberger offered in-depth profiles of aftermarket shops and mobile distributors based on research conducted by Professional Tool & Equipment News, Professional Distributor and Fleet Maintenance magazines.

Panel discussions were also held about the A/C refrigerant HFO-1234yf and telematics.

Other organizations presenting included: National Automotive Service Task Force, DG Technologies, I-CAR and the Collision Repair Education Foundation.

ETI officers for the 2013/2014 year are as follows: president, Ben Johnson, Mitchell 1; vice president, programs, Neil Davis, Snap-on Diagnostics; vice president of marketing, Tim Morgan, Spanesi; secretary/treasurer, Bob Holland, Vehicle Service Group; and technical director, David Rich, Innova.

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