Autotechnician considers the best way forward when vehicle technology and repair processes are evolving at breakneck speed…
It’s a given that finding underlying faults nowadays requires thorough system knowledge, the right test equipment and an understanding of what results to expect when you begin your investigations. Have we now reached a point where it is impossible to accommodate all vehicles that come through the workshop doors?
When you consider the costly range of tools and ongoing training required to undertake more complex diagnostic work across the board, it does not seem feasible that small businesses will be able to cater for all for much longer. Specialising in marques and services and promoting this expertise to customers is becoming more commonplace, as is charging a ‘diagnostic fee’ for taking an initial look at a vehicle with an elusive fault.
We ask independent repair experts Frank Massey and Andy Savva for their thoughts on the fast-changing landscape of vehicle repair…
Frank Massey, trainer and owner of ADS Automotive, says: “I have often been asked what I consider to be the biggest diagnostics challenge we currently face and my response over many years has not changed very much – training and skills development. However, today I find my position very different for many reasons and I find no compromise in my answer as it represents evolution! Technical compliance is my answer.
“I sense with great concern, a political storm brewing, regarding emission legislation, both petrol and diesel; the ability to conform with a vast current and new range of high-tech vehicle innovation. Asset management is vital, and by that, I include the demands of special tooling to match dealerships and even they don’t possess all they need! Workshops need to commit to staff training and legal compliance – the reluctance of many techs, who won’t inconvenience themselves for knowledge gain, is disappointing. The internet genie will not fill the gap, craftsmen earn their reputation from years of experience – learn from them!
“Most of all we are just going to have to change our ways, and fast. A simple example, how many out there are
removing DPFs because the customer cannot afford the correct repair process? Or conducting cleaning methods that simply return all the pollution back into the atmosphere? You may think I’m an old fart, but like Noah, I’m building my ark. So, should you!”
Andy Savva, aftersales expertise, business strategy and industry speaker and vice-president of the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation, IAAF:
“Where do I start on this subject? My view is that most garage owners, perhaps 80%, really don’t have an in-depth knowledge of diagnostics, they don’t know how to capitalise on it and they don’t know how to segregate it from their main business and use it as a niche product or service. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better too, because technology is moving too fast for all of us and over the years there has been a lack of focus on development and training in this area.
“Specialisation is the name of the game: Diagnostics can be very lucrative, but it must be approached in the right
manner. I don’t believe you can be working on all makes and repairs and have all the adequate equipment to actually access and carry out repairs in an efficient and effective manner and leave yourself a profit.
“For me it’s about focusing in a particular area and becoming a true champion. A lot of garages have various pieces of equipment, but they can only make it do half of what it could do at best. It also boils down to knowledge – the ability to interpret the data from this equipment that you have. Knowledge can never be substituted with any piece of equipment, regardless of the cost or who makes it. I think generally people think they can buy a generic piece of equipment that covers 80% of the market in terms of vehicle parc, but then it really doesn’t go in-depth. You need to buy OE diagnostic equipment which very few people have.
The first step in making money from diagnostics is recognising the value of what you are providing – garages
often don’t know how to charge for it and they are afraid of actually justifying a five minute or ten-minute scan. In
the consumer’s eyes they are being charged £60-£70 for five minutes, “just tell me what the fault code is and I’ll get it repaired somewhere else.” You really have to explain and justify what you are doing and why you are doing it.
“You need to do the groundwork. It’s no good saying: “Oh I can do diagnostics, I’m a specialist.” You need to have the foundations and the infrastructure in place to be able to do that. And that’s where many people fail. They say they are a specialist and it takes five minutes to go in there and I have to tell them they’re not.”