On January 10-11, the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario (AARO) hosted its 2020 Annual General Meeting, Symposium and Trade Show.
Holiday Inn Oakville Centre once again played host to this highly-anticipated event on the automotive aftermarket calendar. Technicians; shop owners; managers and vendors/suppliers from across Ontario were in attendence, witnessing not only some highly informative meetings presentations, but also to witness history in the making.
On Friday, the event kicked off with a meeting of the Repair it Right 2020 Task Force, that through AARO, is working with the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) in the U.S.
Over the last 12 months, significant progress has been made; providing Canadian automotive service technicians with a solid, go-to resource when it comes to accessing repair information and solving complex problems. NASTF Executive Officer Donny Seyfer, pointed out that since May, a total of 804 Canadians are now part of the program, an increase of 174 members.
Yet still, the message is, to get more technicians to sign up to the program and submit Service Information Requests (SIRs) through AARO. It doesn’t cost anything and the more technicians sign up and support the Repair it Right 2020 Task Force, the better positioned the aftermarket will be to ensure technicians get the right diagnostic information at the right time, saving time and money, as well as ensuring the future and vitality of the aftermarket.
The Repair it Right session was followed by AARO’s annual general meeting, with the evening concluding via a cocktail reception and dinner.
The next generation
The following morning, Saturday, January 11 it was standing room only as attendees gathered to listen to Chris Chesney, Senior Director, Customer Training, CARQUEST Technical Institute.
Chesney’s hard-hitting session discussed an array of topics, from advancing vehicle technology to finding the next generation of service technicians. On the training side, Chesney emphasized the need to create a structured career path for future technicians and for industry professionals and shop owners to ask themselves, if they are building a mountain that young people actually want to climb. “Today, most technicians don’t feel valued,” he said. “We need to start honouring the position of the mechanic again.”
John Cochrane, Cochrane Automotive and Mark Lemay, Auto Aide Technical Services provided an update on the Repair it Right Task Force for those who did not have the opportunity to attend Friday’s meeting. It was very heartening to note that since it was announced at the 2019 event, the task force has made more progress than previous initiatives did over the course of a decade. The task force now has solid representation with volunteers spread across Canada, while parts supplier involvement in the program is also increasing. Lemay conducted an onsite demonstration to show case just how easy it is for technicians to submit SIRs to the task force through AARO. It’s something no shop, nor technician should be without.
Donny Seyfer was next on the agenda, providing some updates from NASTF, including the launch of a new website and other developments, including working with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to take more steps to thwart auto theft, plus remote security procedures and an updated Mercedes-Benz Theft Related Parts Process.
He stressed that when it comes to getting information access, it was extremely important for the aftermarket and OEMs to cultivate cordial relationships and that by doing so, the result is a win-win situation.
Another, very significant announcement came from a joint session from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) Ontario and the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO). This was the proposed changes to medium and heavy-duty vehicle inspections, which will be combined with emissions testing to create a single, standard test. Additionally, MTO announced plans to take the safety standards certificate program digital, marking a huge leap forward and a chance to really crack down on potential fraud in the system. Speaking with CarCare Business following the meeting, AARO President Rudy Graf and board member John Cochran both acknowledged this was history in the making and will mark a significant change in how shops will service and repair commercial vehicles in the coming years.
Following the morning sessions, attendees had the opportunity to take part in a networking lunch and attend the on-site trade show. And despite, the inclement weather which brought high winds, rain and ultimately freezing rain to the region that weekend, nothing could put a damper on what was a very well attended and dynamic industry event.