By Andy Fiffick, MACS Chairman and CEO
Recently I was asked to give testimony in support of Ohio Senate Bill 232. The bill would require registration of all repair shops in Ohio. Of course I have been in support of the bill for years and welcomed the chance to voice my opinion and experience our democracy at work first hand.
In getting ready for my testimony, I pondered our industry; where we came from and where we are going. Like many of you, I learned our trade from my father at a very early age. Dad was a sergeant in the Army motor pool, a truck mechanic, and a maintenance superintendent at Ford Motor Company. I started working along with dad when I was just six years old. I was a quick study, went on to vocational school, trade school and college. My father taught me to be honest and fair and to always do the job right the first time.
To this day, these values are the cornerstone of my business and one of the main reasons we are successful. In the past, most all of our industry was the same way. The industry was filled with great and honest repair shops operated by caring families, taking care of families for generations. They fixed what was broken and charged a fair price. There was no need for legislation, rules or governance of our industry because we lived by a moral code of ethics that was known by all and honored by most. I believe most MACS member shops are still this way, and I applaud your efforts. Unfortunately, there are fewer of us each year who hold these values in high regard.
For almost the entire 20th century, vehicles required a lot of repairs and seasonal maintenance. There was plenty of work for all, and the industry prospered. However, since the beginning of this century, much has changed. The vehicles are built better, last longer and are more complex. There is less maintenance and less easy or simple work to complete, and many in our industry are fighting to survive. Electronics control all aspects of the vehicle’s operation, and it takes a very educated and well-equipped staff to properly diagnose and repair todays’ vehicles.
Unfortunately many small and family owned operations could not make the transition and have been replaced by big operators, franchised new vehicle dealerships, and some less-than-desirable operators who feed on the least wealthy and least educated consumers. Some of these establishments are not real shops, and consumers fall prey to internet ads offering “certified” repairs at a discount. They don’t keep up with training, equipment or new technologies, and mistakes are covered up by overcharging and/or performing unneeded repairs. Many refuse to abide by EPA standards and do not participate in or abide by any other regulatory requirements as do legitimate businesses.
The simple and honest business practices of the past are giving way to establishments who base their business plans on quotas, incentive plans and commission-structured pay programs. Instead of fixing what is wrong with the vehicle, it has become a game of numbers, and the client is on the losing end.
For all of these reasons, I believe we need to set some standards and regulations to protect the consumer and level the playing field for all. It is important to also keep in mind that our clients and families rely on their vehicles on a daily basis. The families’ safety and economic stability depends on their vehicle operating safely and correctly. Why would we trust any family’s safety and valuable asset to an individual who isn’t at least officially recognized by the state as a legitimate auto repair business? Something needs to be done to raise the bar in our industry, and Ohio’s SB 232 is a great way to start.