Connected cars and tomorrow’s technicians

May 14, 2019
Future tech takeaways from ETI ToolTech

It’s easy to get so caught up in the day to day tasks and business that we fail to consider the bigger picture. I got some interesting ‘big picture’ details concerning the aftermarket at the ETI (Equipment & Tool Institute) ToolTech meeting last week. The annual conference presents a networking opportunity for industry professionals, technical advisors and OEMs. The group’s mission is to protect the intellectual property of aftermarket members and secure a repository for OEM data, and promote the evolution of a viable automotive aftermarket.

This year’s meeting in Charlotte, NC recapped some noteworthy and persistent shifts happening in the industry.

1. Everything is connected

Connected technology is an important change happening in the market. “Connected car” refers to a vehicle having some level of connectivity already embedded in the car; items that help it to “talk” to other things in a connected environment.

Kumar Saha, director of research and consulting with Frost and Sullivan says, “Double digit growth is expected in telematics … in all global regions.” Saha says the majority of vehicles in North America alone will have some level of connectivity by 2025.

Various levels of connectivity already do and will continue to produce all kinds of service, like virtual assistants in cars, infotainment, safety services (eCall), over the air updates, OEM predictive services, and advanced speech recognition. Consider then how might such changes affect the touch point with your customers? And the process of diagnosing a vehicle?

2. You can’t ignore ADAS (Adaptive Driver Assistance Systems)

Many speakers talked about the opportunities and challenges that ADAS systems present. I learned that by 2030, nearly 80 percent of US vehicles will have some level of ADAS technology. However, current targets and calibration procedures (static versus dynamic) to service ADAS are non-standardized. Consider that there are no OEM standard names for sensors and systems; technicians may find 293 name variations for a “360-degree camera view,” for example, including “around view camera,” “surround view camera system,” etc.

Collision shops technically see sensor issues before the dealer, and even very few dealership technicians are properly trained in using this equipment and following a standardized procedure.

I-CAR’s Scott VanHulle says the organization is developing both virtual and online training to help train inter-industry professionals on ADAS, including updated electrical and diagnostics courses.

3. Training is key

While this industry transforms, the number of trained technicians is getting smaller and smaller, says Mark Saxonberg, NASTF (National Automotive Service Task Force) Chairman. The challenge -- posed to high schools, trade schools and industry professionals alike -- will be to “grow [our] own” technicians in the coming years, making sure tomorrow’s workforce comes armed with entry level skill certifications based on: the ability to perform tasks, apprenticeships, mentoring and career onboarding, in-service training and career development.

While training is important, don’t discount the value of mentorship. Saxonberg points out, “For every dollar you invest in a mentoring program, you get $1.5 back from the investment.” He adds, employees who are or were mentored have a 90 percent retention rate, while 30 percent of technicians who were not mentored will look for a new job in first year.

“Without mentoring, we cannot move from the world of cannibalizing technicians to growing our own,” says Saxonberg.

About the Author

Sara Scullin | Editor | PTEN and Professional Distributor

Sara Scullin is the editor of PTEN and Professional Distributor magazines. These publications are part of the Endeavor Business Media Vehicle Repair Group, which includes Fleet Maintenance, Professional Tool & Equipment News (PTEN), Professional Distributor magazines and

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