by Alana Quartuccio
If you’ve been fighting the good fight for the betterment of the collision repair industry in the past 20-plus years, chances are you know the name Bill Cahill.
Cahill has owned BC Auto Repair in Randolph for 37 years. Although he runs a mechanical auto repair business, he’s been a supporter and friend to the collision repair side for decades. In fact, Cahill is a former president of the former AASP-MA/RI association, when its membership included mechanical shops. It has been a number of years since he’s been active with the association, so we caught up with him to see what post-association life is like these days.
New England Automotive Report: Some of our readers may not be familiar with the early association days of AASP/MA when it also included mechanical auto repair shops. How did you get involved with the association? Can you tell our readers a bit about the early days of the association?
Bill Cahill: In the mid-to-late ‘90s, I got involved with trying to figure out the new emissions program in Massachusetts. We have a decentralized inspections program in this state, similar to other states. The state doesn’t run it; it goes to the gas stations and repair shops. I started looking at how to improve my standing in the community and my standing in the industry by getting more educated and getting more involved. I was contacted by someone from the Automotive Service Association (ASA) Massachusetts/Rhode Island chapter who was putting together a training junket to go down to Pennsylvania for training on emission repairs, and I said, ‘Count me in.’”
Shortly after, I started getting more involved with people from ASA and before I knew it, I joined ASA. Not too long after that, ASA started to break up a little bit and become AASP as we know it today but AASP was a mechanical association. Fast forward about six months, I joined the Board of Directors and soon after became president of AASP/MA-Rhode Island
NEAR: Bill, you are credited with playing an instrumental role in building AASP/MA into what it is known as today. Can you tell our readers how it all came together?
BC: There was kind of a strange fluctuation in the Board at the time after I joined which is how I wound up being president in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, we were losing a lot of members, and there was a core group of guys who just kept things going. One of the people involved mentioned that there was a body shop group up on the North Shore that had become disenfranchised with their group, and they went on their own. I reread our bylaws like 15 times and realized that we were, in fact, a collision repair association as well.
So, at that point, we wound up bringing in a good solid 25 members, maybe more, from the North Shore group. Various positions were open on the board, and I told them that if they were to come on board, they’d have to share the burden because we were suffering from lack of members and had a hard time filling positions. So, they stepped right up to the plate, and we became a true mechanical and collision association virtually overnight. Gentlemen like Rick Starbard and Gary Cloutier were among those members. We worked as a team for several years on various projects together. Unfortunately, as the association moved forward, the collision repair side wound up getting stronger, and the mechanical side got weaker. When Right to Repair came along, that’s when we found even more division between what I consider the mechanical part of the industry and the parts manufacturers and suppliers side of the industry. We worked hard together, trying to get Right to Repair through. It would hit a brick wall year after year. When Rick Starbard was president, AASP MA/RI wrote its own version of Right to Repair, which included the base principle of consumer (data) privacy. We called that bill Right to Repair Plus.
We ran with Right to Repair for years, but unfortunately, the money guys shut us down and the parts guys could not get out of our backyard, so their bill was the one that prevailed, and our bill got pushed to the side.
We lived together arm in arm for a longtime, but the collision industry was fractured into three groups at the time. You had AASP, you had MABA, and you had the Central Mass Group. The three would communicate, but there would be a little bit of contention, but then they began to collaborate and that brought them back together. Then they came to the conclusion that it made no sense to have three collision repair groups in the state and decided to bring them all together under one roof, to serve as one voice…and they were 100 percent right.
NEAR: So, what has life been like since you retired from association life?
BC: I’m a friend to the industry. I have worked with a lot of different people over the years to try to get things done with Right to Repair, the inspections program and the emissions program. I’ve always been the common knowledge type of person that if you want to know how something works, this is how it works. I’ve stayed in touch with everybody over the years; I’ve never really hung up the phone on anybody. But with that said, I’m not as active as I was before. I still read everything I can about Right to Repair that comes across my desk.
Before my wife got sick and passed away, she’d run the shop for me, but now I’ve taken over her job as the front person of the shop. She ran the shop, talked to customers, did the estimates and scheduled the appointments. I’ve tried to hire others to do that role since, but two of those people unfortunately passed as well, so it just leaves me, and I’ll probably be doing the job until I’m done here.
I’m still here, and like most people in this industry, I’m looking for a way out if you will, but it’s not easy to do anymore. I’m well past retirement age, and I’m still here; I’m still going. I like to travel a lot, which is still one of my favorite things, and I still have my motorcycle and travel by motorcycle too. I don’t know how much longer I can do that, but I’m going to do it for as long as I can. As for retirement, it’s there, and I need to figure it out at some point, but I try to enjoy things as much as I can.
Other things that keep me busy include my involvement with the Lions. The Lions are an international charity group that my wife was intensely involved with. I have always supported (and participated) as a non-member, but when my wife became ill, I joined the Lions to keep her good work going. So, I meet with the Randolph Lions Club (RLC) on a regular basis, where we work to fundraise money to donate 100 percent of it to charity. We perform community service and outreach and support blindness prevention research. And I was recently voted in as second vice president to the RLC.
Want more? Check out the October 2023 issue of New England Automotive Report!