For the most part changes in the automotive service and repair industry happen on a gradual scale and are usually absorbed by the industry rather easily. However, there is a change that has started at the manufacturer level and this will have far-reaching effects upon the service and repair industries as a whole for the foreseeable future.
Many of you remember the problems that Toyota was having with unintended acceleration of its vehicles and the resultant Federal probe. One news item from that time which has stayed in my mind was how Toyota ‘threw their mechanics under a bus’. This is not normal behavior for any corporation. What I mean by this, was instead of backing their mechanics and the services they perform, they blamed the mechanics for the continuing problems saying that their mechanics were not performing the work correctly.
About 1986 General Motors through their Buick Motor Division introduced a revolutionary piece of diagnostic equipment. It was called Computerized Automotive Maintenance System, or CAMS for short. This was basically a PC with a touch screen and proprietary software that was updated daily in a roll about cabinet. This PC was connected to Buick’s servers 24 hours a day by internet connection.
The mechanic connected the CAMS unit to the vehicle ALDL connector and retrieved lots of data from the car like VIN, mileage, DTCs, Freeze Frame data, live data and more. The CAMS unit was assigned to the chief Diagnostics & Driveability (D&D) mechanic and he was required to input information that could assist with diagnosis. The CAMS unit was decent for the time, but lacked the intuitive understanding that experienced mechanics possess. This CAMS unit was replaced after a few years.
The dealership system of having one chief D&D mechanic, started to vanish with the terminations and retirement of extremely skilled mechanics which left a void of knowledge in most of them. The unfortunate consequence of this has been that more parts are being replaced unnecessarily at the dealership level along with an increased number of customer complaints. This is a situation that manufacturers watch very closely as it is a huge expense. This terminations and retirement of extremely skilled mechanics required increased capabilities of some of the OBD2 Scan Tools like Tech II.
The automotive service industries are berating the manufacturers with demands of releasing their service data systems, like the EU ruling that requires them to release it. At the same time, the manufacturers were required to implement the CAN (language) protocol in their vehicles for standardization.
To combat these problems the manufacturers have started to implement a system similar to CAMS, except that it runs on a laptop. It has the manufacturer’s service data system, diagnostic tools, and more built in with internet connections to the manufacturer’s servers to assist the mechanics. This change is literally in the early stages at many manufacturers including BMW, Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG), and Nissan. BMW introduced what is called a GT1 Yellow Book, VAG is changing their diagnostic systems from VCDS (VAG COM) to ODIS, Nissan is changing from VI to VI2 for new cars. These changes require major equipment and tool purchases that most independent repair shops could not afford.
Thus the time is rapidly approaching for the independent shop that services every manufacturer to choose only one or two primary brands to service, or simply go out of business.
There is a very positive point to this for the independent shops though. They should choose which brands to go with, buy the proprietary data systems, acquire the tools (if they do not already own them) to service their current vehicles. Build their knowledge and skill every way they can to become the go to shop for that brand in their geographic area. They could most likely steal quite a bit of the dealers business from him during this transition. The window of opportunity is about 1 or 2 years to accomplish this change.
If not enough independent shops make this transition the manufacturers will have what they have fought for many years to accomplish, a customer that literally cannot get the car serviced except at the dealer.
Then Heaven help the customer that owns a brand that is already dipping heavily into the customers pocket for what would be normal time / mileage services. They will most likely need to take a second mortgage on their home to pay for car service. Currently to service a 320CLK Mercedes on a “B” or “H” service where the valve cover gaskets, PCV hoses, front and rear brakes, major tune up, service the EGR system, 4 HO2S sensors, and fluid replacements costs about $3000.00 to $3500.00 in most independent shops. This service could easily double in price.
Comparing our 2X80S to competitors
|Controls Data Corruption|
|Improved Data Speed|
|Enhanced Software Included|
|Phone Tablet PDA Capable|
|Multiple PC Applications|
|Multiple Phone Tablet PDA Applications|
|2 Wheel Vehicle Applications|
|Legacy OS Support|
Yes or Included No or not included Some or limited
|All above information is based on published information as of 01/2015 or products purchsed to confirm|