Collaboration Is The Key To Improving Aftermarket/OEM Partnerships – UnderhoodService

Collaboration Is The Key To Improving Aftermarket/OEM Partnerships

The TechShop team recently attended the Equipment & Tool Institute's ToolTech. The annual event brings representatives from across the aftermarket industry together with the OEMs to share their insights and concerns about the future of the aftermarket.

Industry association meetings and conventions are a great way to stay connected or reconnect with colleagues and stay up to date with what’s going in the aftermarket. These events encourage your involvement and, while you’re helping the industry and the association with your attendance and participation, you’re also enhancing your own expertise and experience.

The connections the TechShop team makes at these events enhance the magazine and help us bring you the latest information on new equipment and tools.

TechShop Associate Publisher Sean Donohue and I recently attended the Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI)’s 2013 ToolTech in San Diego. Each year this event brings more and more people together with the specific goal of improving the relationships between original equipment manufacturers and the aftermarket. They want to make the tools you use every day more efficient and more complete.

“Collaboration” was the key word at this year’s ToolTech, and the schedule of events focused on what the members of ETI can do to work with OEMs to try and solve some of the many issues shops are facing today.

The automotive aftermarket continuously and increasingly faces the tough challenges new vehicle technology brings, such as Flash Reprogramming, training and access to information. Independent repair shops are finding it harder than ever to find qualified techs as well as the tools and information needed to complete the necessary repairs and maintenance.

While my full ETI report can be found at:, here are some highlights from the lively Shop Owner’s Perspective Panel, which was moderated by Ben Johnson of Mitchell 1. 

Johnson introduced Randy Begin of Mission Hills Automotive and Cass Street Automotive; Stan Rogers, general manager/partner of Gustafson Brothers; and John Gustafson, president of Gustafson Brothers. This panel was invited to ToolTech to offer the toolmakers insights from the guys who throw away the boxes.

Johnson asked the panel about the trends they’ve been seeing over the last few years. Begin stated that cars have gotten a lot more reliable. “It’s all about preventive maintenance. Check engine lights are warning us before anything goes critically wrong.”

“The trends that we see are that the technicians are undereducated,” Gustafson said. “The rate of change in technology is so great that technicians are learning at a much slower pace than at which technology is advancing.” He would like it to be possible to get the information through the tooling.

Rogers said it won’t be long before every tech will pick up a scan tool on a daily basis because of what the cars require. “The electronics, the diagnostic procedure on the new cars is so much different from what it was five or 10 years ago. Even our B- or C-level techs are going to grab a scan tool. But the scan tool has to be user-friendly.”

His ideas include the need for tools that can grow with the tech — a buildable scan tool that could be customized to the tech’s ability.

When asked how the diagnostic process has changed, Rogers said, “You need a diagnostic strategy — how you attack the problem nowadays is different from before. Stop going to the toolbox initially, and start going to the computer. Teach the tech to go to the computer first.”

Begin asked the audience of tool and equipment manufacturers, “Who are you building your scan tool for?” Noting that cars (hybrids) are so different, and “the scan tool needs to identify the component, check the code, tell me where the component is, tell me what it looks like, tell me how it’s wired, what it’s supposed to do, known-good waveforms — in one place! It should instantly hook up to the Internet as soon as I turn it on.” His other ideas included the tool have a built-in camera to take pictures of defects; then he could document it with his customer management system.

“There’s a huge window of opportunity for someone to step in and build a tool that’s soup to nuts, that takes a C technician and makes him an A technician by giving him so much information,” Begin said.

“There is so much new technology coming down the line (networking, infotainment systems, lane avoidance, automatic braking systems),” Begin continued, “that we don’t even understand, that we’re going to need help from the tool. Train us how to use the tool. Don’t even sell us the tool without putting the price of training in it.”

When asked what percentage of time are they using diagnostic repair information, Rogers said, “75-95% of the time we’re going to be searching for diagnostic information, TSBs, quick fixes… If a PC-based scan tool could be networked with the Internet, where you could go onto a service repair information service, that’d be great. In the very near future, it’s going to be 100% of the time that you’re going to have to search for information. You can’t possibly retain it all.”

Gustafson said, “Every car that comes in, you have to check the service information, whether it’s about the type of coolant or weights of oil, whether it’s synthetic or non, … In a perfect world, you would go to a car with your OBD connector, wireless, plug it in, and on your workstation at your toolbox you could have the VIN, codes, the vehicle’s current information at your fingertips. And if you have any diagnostic work to do, you can go to that next level.”

Begin also said that every car gets scanned for pending codes. “It’s a sales tool.”


What are you looking for in the ultimate scan tool? Tell us your thoughts and ideas and we’ll pass them on to ETI.  Send them to [email protected].


While we’re talking about industry connections, I wanted to mention someone who I met at one of the very first industry events I attended, some 15+ years ago, who was recently honored at an industry association convention.

The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers-Minnesota (AASP-MN) held its Annual Meeting & Convention in Minneapolis in April, and the association recognized Bill Sauer of Identifix with a special Lifetime Service Award for his many years of volunteerism and service to the automotive community. I met Bill and his wife Duffy in Dearborn, MI, at a CARS convention, and they’ve been dear to me ever since, so I was very pleased to see he was being honored. 

“Bill Sauer is loved by virtually everyone in this industry, and especially by his friends at AASP-MN,” said AASP-MN Executive Director Judell Anderson during a special commemorative ceremony. Sauer has enjoyed a lengthy career highlighted by active involvement in the AASP-MN Education & Training Committee, Automotive Training Managers Council, ASE, the Automotive Management Institute and the Automotive Service Association.

Congratulations Bill!


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