As an independent auto repairer, we face many challenges every day. Most of which we can control, except when it comes to interacting with the OEM's (Auto manufacturers).
We are constantly trying to deal with the latest obstacle that gets in the way for us to be able to do our jobs effectivly and efficiently. So what are these obstacles? I will tell you
- Hard to find or very expensive repair information on line
- Dealers that won't sell you the parts needed to fix the car. Some try and hide under the "It's a theft related part" meaning they won't sell me an ignition switch suggesting that I make a living steeling cars. Even though I am Bonded to be a Locksmith which makes me accountable. I recently was trying to fix a Mercedes and the rep at MB said he would not allow me to purchase a valve body for the transmission, but he would sell me the ignition switch, Go figure.
- Expensive factory scan tools
- Free service. When a new car is sold, some offer free service vouchers. An example is Chevy trucks will give you 12 free oil change coupons when you buy a new truck. Are they really free, or did the OE add it on to the price? How can I compete with free?
Now I do understand to some degree WHY they do this, to protect there dealer's. The overhead at a dealership is staggering. I have heard of $250,000 a month just to turn the key to get in. So yes that is a good reason to try and protect each dealer (Franchise).
As a consumer I want to go were I can get the best value. I am not suggesting value means cheapest either. Here is what I look for,
- Can I get in for service when I need to?
- Do I feel confident they can do what is needed on my car?
- Are they honest?
- Is it convenient?
- Are they looking out for my needs as well as their's.
- When a problem arises, how do they handle it?
Some dealers can do all of these things, and some cannot. For the ones that cannot, thats were I come in. If the playing field was level I would have an easier time, but when the OE's put up sophisticated road blocks, that's what I refer to as "Not Playing Nice". Most independent repair facilities are understaffed and do not have the time to be able to uncover what tricks the OE's are up to now.
In my opinion playing nice is another word for business ethics. If companies do the right thing for the consumer, it should come back to reward them. There are some companies that do play nice, Toyota is a great example of this. They sell their repair information and factory scan tools well below the industry average and I love their "Extended Care" warranty. Hyundai/Kia gives us the information for free, like them too.
Ironacally, these companies are also enjoying some of the best years in business even though globally we are in tough economic times. Maybe the American and European OE's will watch this and listen. Given the fact that the American people bailed out GM and Chrysler (For a second time) you would think they might learn from this.
We want companies to be ethical, get it!!!
If companies won't comply, what choice do we have but to support right to repair legislation of some kind. I have also played with NASTF, to be nice lets just say it needs work and probably more resources to function properly. The response time I have gotten from NASTF is completely unacceptable. I have the case numbers to support these claims.
I also believe initially that the threat of legislation has prompted some OEM's to offer more (Service information, scan tools, and parts), and believe me we definately have more than we did 10 years ago. But we also REQUIRE more than we did 10 years ago as well. When you have to go into the CEM (Central electronics module) on a Mercedes to reset the code for a burnt out headlight in order to get it to work, well...