by Alana Quartuccio
Meeting for the second time this year, state affiliate leaders of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP) considered a number of automotive repair issues on the national level and shared their local wins and goals when they met at SEMA 2023 in Las Vegas in early November.
AASP-MN Executive Director Linden Wicklund updated her colleagues about the many activities the Alliance has underway. One of the big highlights was the Alliance’s recent MNCARS Automotive Workforce Summit held at the 3M Training Center in St. Paul, which was deemed a success.
The event was focused on bringing together folks from the industry and allied organizations who are impacting what’s happening with students in the state and what is happening with the job market. “It was a productive conversation on new initiatives and how we can make things happen,” Wicklund shared.
As someone who is active with many local technical schools’ and community colleges’ advisory boards, she reported the growth these schools are experiencing as they are creating and adding new programs. “We’re seeing more certificate programs or secondary degrees being offered at these schools. They are now offering degrees in estimating and diagnostics.”
AASP National President Dan Sjosleth (Superior Service Center; St. Paul, MN) pointed out that, in some cases, Minnesota auto service programs have waiting lists for students, a good problem to have; the bad news is most collision programs are not filled to capacity. He emphasized the importance of shop owner involvement with local schools. “Be a champion for these kids to help bring them along and give them opportunity.”
The MNCARS event also included discussions surrounding technician pay scale and what wages look like in the automotive field, along with a presentation on minimum sustainable wage, to paint a picture of just how much one needs to earn as a bare minimum to survive living in the Twin Cities. Sjolseth shared that young people are more likely to be passionate about the industry if the pay scale can be more competitive with the wages that one can earn as an electrician or plumber.
AASP-MN also plans to examine what the talent pipeline looks like in order to learn how long people are staying in the industry, with the hopes of stabilizing or changing that rate. They are also collecting great feedback and learning about issues as they have regular conversations with members.
Another major focus has been returning to more in-person regular membership meetings with the hopes of encouraging more members to get involved. “We’ve found that having more casual in-person meetings where people can make eye contact, and make new friends, can help grab more people into the fold and keep them engaged with activities,” Wicklund explained.
The members of the AASP National Board took part in conversations related to the Right to Repair legislation that was introduced at the federal level this past February. Tod Moore of the Auto Care Association updated the Board on the process of the legislation which supports consumers’ right to be able to choose where they have their car repaired.
A number of collision repair professionals, including Society of Collision Repair Specialist Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg and Vice President of State Affairs for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation Wayne Weikel came to the table to verify their support of Right to Repair in general, while also sharing some concerns in regard to the motives from those who are driving the federal REPAIR Act, such as major insurance companies and aftermarket part manufacturers.
Another shared consideration among repair professionals is the fact there isn’t much detail about how the information would be used, just that it would be accessible. Others brought up concerns about the testing of aftermarket scanning and calibration equipment that could be reverse engineered via access to OEM information and who would be responsible if the equipment were to malfunction and give a false positive that the calibrations were completed properly.
“If an aftermarket part, scanning or calibration tool were to fail, someone can die,” commented Sjosleth. “It’s a difficult battle for our industry to support both sides of this.”
Another related point of discussion is getting insurers to pay for the procedures that OEMs say are crucial in returning cars to pre-accident condition. “If the auto manufacturers are saying that data is being pulled three percent of the time, and they are frustrated with this, where is the campaign to fix that problem?” Wicklund queried. She also pointed out the issue that shops are making the business decision to become OEM certified, yet those proper repairs will not be paid for in full by insurance companies.
Conversations also centered around the success of the invaluable resource that is the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG). Funded solely by sponsorships, including primary support from AASP National and SCRS, the DEG successfully rolled out an updated website earlier this year, and corrections continue to be made to estimating platforms thanks to inquiries received.
DEG Administrator Danny Gredinberg reported the year-to-date total of corrected hours across the three main information provider platforms (MItchell, CCC and Audatex) totalled 988 for body hours and 242 hours for paint. Some changes included the time-consuming process of rivet gun set up being a non-included operation and the application of seam sealer on bolt-on parts being noted as non-included.
Gredinberg also referenced the changes coming via Audatex and CCC in regard to the SCRS blend study.
He stressed the importance of continuing to spread the word about the DEG and how submitting inquiries is a great benefit to the entire industry. Most users submit about 10 inquiries per year, with roughly 50 percent resulting in change.
Gredinberg emphasized the importance of submitting inquiries. “Even if something doesn’t change, it’s still something we can address.”
The AASP National Board continues to communicate throughout the year via virtual meetings. The Board plans to reconvene in person next spring once a date and location is determined.
Want more? Check out the December 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!