by Chasidy Rae Sisk
For the past three years, the AASP National Board has met virtually every six months, so when they gathered in person on November 2 for the first time since the pandemic began, they had plenty to discuss.
Representatives from affiliates around the country, including AASP-MN Executive Director Linden Wicklund, Dan Sjolseth (Superior Service Center; Eagan) and Will Latuff (Latuff Brothers Auto Body; St. Paul) participated in conversations related to the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG), updates from United Fire Group (UFG) and legislation on Right to Repair.
After Outgoing President Tom Elder (Compact Kars; Clarksburg, NJ) welcomed attendees, Danny Gredinberg, administrator for the DEG, announced that the DEG is nearing 20,000 inquiries with a 50-55 percent change rate. “The industry is hungry for education,” he claimed, stressing the need for shops to continue “challenging times by submitting inquiries to see change. This is how we get accuracy.”
Next, Leah Olson and Lorna Morgan from UFG shared updates on current insurance industry trends, as well as performance of the AASP insurance program. Although they acknowledged that the program has not paid dividends for the past two years, Morgan expressed optimism that UFG will be able to offer payouts to members again in the near future, and Olson reminded AASP members that other advantages and benefits are available to members as well.
“UFG is dedicated to the AASP program,” she emphasized, listing benefits such as the targeted class of business, risk control resources, safety training and over $35 million paid out in claims since 2014 as the advantages that members have received through the program. “We feel very good that we’ve got the right tools to monitor this situation and adequately support AASP shops.”
The final guest speaker during the meeting was Tom Tucker, Government Affairs/Public Policy for the Auto Care Association, who dove into the controversial topic of Right to Repair, saying, “We need to keep the dialogue going, particularly when it comes to discussion on the use of aftermarket parts.”
Referencing Massachusetts legislation from a decade ago, Tucker noted that wireless telematics were left out with the agreement to address the issue later. “Later is now,” he claimed, explaining that Auto Care’s 2019 ballot initiative passed with 75 percent of the vote, leading automakers to sue in federal court based on two issues: federal preemption and cybersecurity. “I think the judge is trying to be deliberate. These are not necessarily easy issues to understand, and he’s trying to be deliberate with cybersecurity concerns and the changing nature of the industry introducing electric vehicles. ‘Deliberate’ doesn’t make us happy because we feel we have a very strong case […], but we expect the issue of federal preemption to be off the table, and if the only remaining issue is cybersecurity, we have a solution based on internationally-recognized standards that the automakers are already implementing in similar applications.”
Although Tucker feels “very comfortable [the judge] is going to rule in our favor,” he also admitted that the losing side is likely to appeal the decision, so the issue will not be resolved anytime soon. He referenced a similar Right to Repair initiative in Maine, stating that if the legislature declines to take action, it will go to the voters in 2023. “Separately, we also have a federal bill pending in Congress, House Resolution 6570, which introduced the REPAIR Act in Congress.”
That bill now has 18 co-sponsors, indicating that it has been “generating momentum in Congress.” According to Tucker, it would give consumers control of their diagnostic vehicle data and provide them with the authority to direct who can receive that diagnostic repair information. It would also direct NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to develop cybersecurity standards which would be the law of the land, and give FTC (Federal Trade Commission) enforcement authority to resolve any disputes, as well as develop a committee that would oversee emerging technology issues in the market so that we don’t keep coming back to this battle time and time again.”
Claiming that Right to Repair is a “growing movement with global momentum,” Tucker shared Auto Care Association’s position on OEM repair procedures: “We feel very strongly that, from a safety perspective, you should follow the suggested repair procedure, but we recognize that OEMs can always change their procedures to include parts, and that’s crossing the line for us when they insist on using OEM parts and not providing consumers with the choice to use aftermarket parts. For that reason, we oppose OEM repair procedures. We want customers to have a safe, proper and reliable repair, so we’re not questioning safety; we’re questioning giving the OEMs the authority to change the procedure in a way that would basically create a monopoly on parts.”
AASP affiliates shared thoughts on Tucker’s presentation.
“On the collision side, we feel the OEM parts are absolutely necessary because the aftermarket parts are not properly tested and don’t meet the same standard for fit and finish after a collision,” Elder stressed on behalf of auto body shops. “If a quality control test were performed, I’m sure the body industry would have open arms, but [as it stands], we have to do the job twice and it becomes a difficulty for us, especially with cradle to grave responsibility on collision repairs.”
On the auto repair side, arguments were made in favor of aftermarket parts which reduce expenses for customers, as long as the parts are tested and proven to be safe.
“The industry is actually in a civil war right now; the whole industry is in flux,” Tucker noted as his time drew to a close. “We’re looking at significant changes in the industry in the whole ecosystem. Do we sit back and ride the wave…or do we put a group together and have some honest conversations? We’re not all going to agree on everything, but if we can start understanding, we can craft those solutions for tomorrow because the status quo where we’re all fighting is just not sustainable.”
The eight affiliate leaders who represent over 4,000 member businesses also tackled association business related to approving the last meeting minutes, reviewing the annual budget and discussing changes to existing benefits as well as the addition of two new benefits through Condition Now and World Insurance. AASP National Administrator Judell Anderson encouraged affiliates to take advantage of the organization’s education grants to help fund training for their local members, and Elder stressed, “Education is very important here.”
As the semi-annual meeting concluded, the National Board voted in favor of the nominating committee’s suggested Executive Committee for the 2023-2024 term: President Dan Sjolseth (Superior Service Center; Eagan, MN), Vice President Lucas Underwood (L&N Performance Auto Repair; Blowing Rock, NC), Secretary/Treasurer Barry Burkholder (Auto Success Inc.; Ephrata, PA) and Chair of Executive Directors Amanda Henry (AASP-PA) with Elder serving as Immediate Past President.
AASP National also recognized outgoing Executive Committee members Molly Brodeur and Bill Adams (New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops) before voting to hold its next meeting in Chicago, IL in April 2023. For more information on AASP National, visit autoserviceproviders.com.