Archive for March, 2015

There’s a person driving that car!

Friday, March 13th, 2015
airdrie calgary auto repair

Don’t use your phone when you drive. We don’t fix body damage!


There’s been a lot of buzz in the automotive industry recently about self-driving cars. Most of the major auto manufacturers are working on some sort of vehicle with “auto-pilot” capabilities. But today, we’d like to talk about those vehicles that are still operated – and owned – by real people.

We’re getting close to the end of what has always been the slow season in our industry. This year was especially slow because of the mild weather; cars just weren’t breaking down as much! But we at Tools in Motion were very lucky. Despite being the newest auto repair shop in town, we’ve been told by various auto industry sales reps, travelling tool salesmen and others that we managed to stay busier than most facilities in the area.

For this, of course, we have our awesome customers to thank. I don’t know of any other business that is blessed with such a loyal group of long-time customers. Why do I think we’ve been able to earn this kind of a following? I firmly feel that it’s because we will never forget there’s a real person driving those vehicles. Real people, with real budgets, real problems, and real lives. So many people in our industry seem to have forgotten this.

Just the other day, we repaired a truck with a broken airflow door inside the heater box. This is a very common problem, so we were surprised when none of the local dealerships had the door in stock. Speaking with a technician at one dealership, he explained that this was probably because they almost never replace the broken door, but instead replace the whole heater box because “It’s easier and faster”. Nevermind that this adds another $1000 in parts to the customer’s repair bill, for a savings of only $100-150 in labour. That hour of trouble you just saved yourself comes with a price; but there seems to be no concern for this. It’s like this technician had totally forgotten that a real person needs to pay for this repair at the end of the day, and they probably have a better place to spend that $1000.

We had an elderly lady who came to see us this week (thankfully) for a second opinion regarding a $4700 quote she’d received at a Calgary dealership for a coolant leak repair. Over $2000 of the quote was to replace perfectly good parts (the steering rack, etc) that were completely unrelated to her issue, but “might fail in the future”. “Why not replace them while we’re in there?” was their reasoning. Come on, guys! Really?! Sometimes this thinking makes sense, like replacing a timing belt driven water pump at the same time as the belt,since if the pump fails, the entire job must be re-done. This wasn’t one of those repairs. We’re all about keeping our customers’ vehicles reliable, but there comes a point. A real person needs to pay for all these extra parts! Are we going to start replacing our customers starters and alternators every year, just in case they fail?

As it turns out, the leak had been misdiagnosed anyways, so the customer left our shop with a $750 repair bill, and a steering rack/alternator/etc that should continue to serve them well for years to come.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on dealerships, because there are some really awesome service advisors and technicians working in dealerships across this country. This is an industry-wide problem.

What’s causing this? Is it because most service shops only employ flat rate technicians who are always chasing that next 1.2, 3.4, or 0.5 hours of pay? Or because most service advisors in larger businesses are paid near minimum wage and must depend on sales bonuses and commissions to earn a good living? Have today’s important repairs become nothing more than numbers on a piece of paper for these folks?

Maybe the pay structure is only part of it. Maybe it’s laziness. Have some of us have gotten so lazy that in some twisted way, we can talk ourselves into charging a customer an extra $900 in order to save ourselves an hour of work, and feel like that’s okay?

Is the it organizational structure of most shops nowadays, where the technician is totally isolated from the customer; hidden away and separated by a layer of service advisors that they must communicate through? Does this provide the “disconnect”?

In some ways, I feel that not knowing how an automotive repair business is “supposed to be run” may be our greatest strength. Every day, we work hard and do everything we can to take care of the real people driving the vehicles we service. Saving a real person even $100 might not seem like a big deal, until you step back and realize that most of us have to work many hours to earn that $100, and probably have many places where we could use that extra money.

In conclusion, rest assured that we will never forget about you – the real person who drives your vehicle; the real person from where our wages come from. You’re the reason we can come to work every day and do a job we love, and we’ll never stop appreciating it!‎