Four automaker executives presented details about their requirements for service under their dealer franchise agreements. Five aftermarket experts followed by examining the current status of service-readiness among independent shops. This conversation between OEMs and the aftermarket was organized by the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) and unfolded before a diverse industry audience during VISION2013 at the 2013 Spring NASTF General Meeting in Overland Park, Kan. on Friday, March 8, 2013.
Kelly Geist, service engineering manager for Subaru; Mark Saxonberg, service technology manager for Toyota; Bob Stewart, aftermarket service support for General Motors (GM) and Jim Von Ehr, manager, technical information and serviceability of Nissan each gave insight into their service department business models.
Saxonburg explained “the availability of service information doesn’t, itself, make a tech serviceready.” He listed five additional resources as necessary: factory diagnostic functions, product knowledge, tech assistance support, factory parts options and a commitment to learning.
Stewart extolled the benefits of GM’s long-term strategy in technician development demonstrated in GM’s ASEP (Automotive Service Education Program), which is a partnership with their franchise dealer spanning from high school through a tech’s working career.
Geist described Subaru’s requirement of minimum tool investments from Toughbook laptops to some 400 special tools costing about $50,000. “We roll out about 20 new special
tools a year and they are shipped automatically to our franchise dealers,” said Geist.
Von Ehr described the Nissan MSTR (Minimum Service Training Requirements) and showed its positive correlation to the F-1 scores (Fixed Right the First Time Score) for Nissan dealers. In closing, Von Ehr argued the industry needs more than just highly-qualified techs. “We need more techs at all levels,” he said. “With the right training requirements in place, we’ll get more highly-qualified techs from that larger pool of techs.”
Bob Augustine of Christian Brothers Automotive, Bob Beckmann of Beckmann Technologies, Aaron Cherrington of Identifix, Jeff Minter of Madison Technical College and Rusty Savignac of Paxton Garage followed the OEM roundtable and discussed solutions for closing the service-readiness gap among independent shops. “It’s harder today to fit all the necessary training into just a two-year college program,” said Minter. He’s concerned that education is too focused on pattern-failures and not enough depth in system understanding that would be useful in developing diagnostic skills.
Cherrington noted that today’s techs must be resourceful. “A 2010 Ford has about 11 million lines of software code,” he said. “A tech today must have information partners.”
Augustine encouraged shops to develop a “training roadmap” with compensation incentives for higher skill levels.
Savignac, who operates Paxton Garage in Massachusetts, said independent shops must accept responsibility for turning tech school grads into qualified techs. “My two best techs came from post-secondary schools and got OJT, refined,” he explained.
Beckmann is a Euro specialist and contracts to assist shops with service in advanced systems not yet mastered in their shop. “One difference that separates troubled [shops] from successful [shops] is their attitude towards asking for help,” noted Beckmann. “The successful will reach out for help quickly.”
manufacturer of vehicles
Toyota, Subaru and General Motors confirm participation at March 8 meeting in Overland Park, Kan.