Looking Forward, Reacting Now
As the saying goes, perspective is everything. This relates well to the automotive industry, seeing as it is no stranger to changes, and no stranger to challenges either.
The scope can feel abstract. There are many moving parts, and it can be easy to lose track of how each new advancement is impacting the greater industry at large.
Sometimes all you need is some insight to understand what really matters and what the biggest takeaways are.
Donny Seyfer is an executive officer with the National Automotive Service Task Force, and he understands that there are a lot of things happening at once, especially as it pertains to technological advancements.
“Technicians have not changed their point of view in 40 years. They're still expecting to repair a car based on the fact that they've got a Y chromosome in those cases and they should just know how it works,” Seyfer says. “And it doesn't work that way anymore.”
But the notion of a mindset change doesn’t need to be an overwhelming thought, even though some of the larger shifts within the industry have already begun. One example of this is the ICE to EV transition.
“I don't think that a transition [will happen] in most of our lifetimes. I think there'll be a lot of [EVs] coming, and I think there'll be a significant part of the market share unlike where they are now,” Seyfer says, “but there just are markets where they're not ready to cover them yet for quite some time. However, with that said, opportunities abound right now for folks who want to get in early.”
Seyfer notes that there are EV manufacturers who want to use independent repair shops as their service points, which gives an incentive to invest in EV technologies and training. But that isn’t a feasible solution for every shop, and Seyfer understands that as much as he recognizes the importance of EVs overall.
“I don’t think that anybody needs to completely freak out,” Seyfer says. “But if you’re not aware of them, that means you’re probably not aware of hybrids either, and they’re gaining market share very rapidly.”
Acting on ADAS
Keeping that in mind, another important area of advancement for consideration is advanced driver assistance systems. Along with all of the conversation surrounding EVs, ADAS is also undoubtedly a hot topic right now.
Some shops are leaning into it, and some are leaning away. But what aspects should shops really be focusing on? Seyfer says it depends on your shop’s discipline.
“If you're in the collision industry, you need to be aware. You need to be capable of providing service for those by whatever means you do it,” Seyfer says. “But for general repair shops … those vehicles can’t be aligned without some kind of calibration, and that will change as more and more dynamic cars come online. But you still have to calibrate them.”
Understanding ADAS calibration and repair procedures is crucial if you don’t want to be turning away repairs. In order to avoid miscommunication with a customer, Seyfer says it’s important to be well-versed on the processes and procedures ahead of time. Put in the work to understand ADAS, and it will pay off.
“If you’re still thinking that this is a trend that is not going to go on or these cars will be completely self calibrating, that’s not actually going to be the case,” Seyfer says.
Seyfer goes on to say that another step worth taking involves customer education. Currently, ADAS has the potential to interfere with how a driver performs on the road. That is to say that these systems are not perfect, even if they are well intended. Seyfer is hopeful that in the future ADAS will only help and not cause distractions for drivers.
“They know it’s there, but I don’t think they have any idea in most cases what’s involved in making those systems work properly after what they would consider a simple operation like an alignment,” Seyfer says of general customer knowledge on ADAS. “As a repair shop, you have to be aware of this.”
This also ties into who is hired on as technicians. Who are the people in your shop educating the customers and doing these complex repairs?
The labor shortage throughout the industry right now certainly does not make this question any easier to consider, but Seyfer has an idea of the right approach, which unsurprisingly has to do with shedding perspective on the situation.
“Where I would be focusing is that technician/IT mindset,” Seyfer says. “Because everything on the cars anymore is on the network in some way, shape or form. So, someone’s got to be able to service the network.”