Imagine a world with no choices. Everyone shops at Wal-Mart. All movies star Keanu Reeves. And all motor vehicles must be repaired through the OE dealer (and of course supplied with parts strictly from the dealership parts department).
Science fiction? A bad dream? No. It could happen...without the efforts of everyone in the aftermarket.
Now there's yet another demand on your time that requires your attention. It's your customers' struggle for the right to repair. Simply, technicians across the country do not have adequate access to vehicle manufacturer service and tool information. Without it, your customers aren't able to properly diagnose and repair vehicles, which forces motorists to go to the OE dealer for certain kinds of repairs.
Unfortunately, this battle has become a much greater concern in recent years due to the vehicle manufacturers' stubborness that prevents us from getting the information. This is a challenge that represents a great threat to our long-term viability.
You can point to any number of reasons why the OEs have suddenly taken an interest in the aftermarket: dwindling OE dealer and OE manufacturer profits (due to hyper competition and margin-robbing incentive programs); OE "awareness" is heightened as a result of emissions regulations from politicians - with whom we as a market must now team; or the "monkey see, monkey do" phenomenon that eventually impacts all global manufacturers as they share best practices among themselves. All of these reasons combined are probably the best explanation.
So now the OEs are serious about wanting to play in our aftermarket sandbox. But the OEs don't want to play fairly. The only way to get them to play nice is by forcing them with a united aftermarket to ensure that all of the participants have equal and fair access to all of the information and tools necessary for fair competition. Let me emphasize that we should not embark on this mission as a way to solicit sympathy for the plight of the automotive aftermarket. This is being done strictly to ensure that American consumers have choices when it comes to vehicle maintenance, repair - and the parts that go along with it. That's what a free market is all about - competition and choice.
There is something you can do. Get involved in the Right to Repair Act and all of the various political and government legislative activities our industry offers. You can contact GEAR (Grassroots Enhancing Aftermarket Representation) at [email protected] (or call 301-654-6664). They'll enlist and guide you through the myriad of aftermarket activities and legislative procedures. They'll keep you up-to-date on where the most pressing threats to our market's livelihood are currently brewing.
A legislative summit is being held in Washington, D.C. next month (Feb. 25-26.) This summit is the kick off for the industry's efforts to pass the Motor Vehicle Right to Repair Act. Those who attend the summit will meet with congressional representatives and senators to ensure they understand the facts and how it impacts you. Contact GEAR for more information on how you can participate in the summit.
We think it's important. Counterman Editor Brian Cruickshank will be in Washington for the summit. I hope you will be too.