The real elephant in the room, scandal by the new car manufactures
Guys I have been talking to a guy in NZ and I want your views on my conspiracy theory.
The real elephant in the room is this. The latest scandal the new car manufactures are pulling worldwide is to withhold information from their dealer networks therefore they no longer have to offer this to the aftermarket because the regulations overseas (and soon to be in Australia) only stipulate they have to offer the aftermarket the same level of information as what they do for their dealers. So the way they get around this is by not offering all their data info to their dealers, and they get around this by setting up central diagnostic departments in some part the world were the dealership simply log the fault to the department and the department tells the dealer tech what to do without disclosing any data information.
So in other words the tech can be some dummy that is not taught to think and simply follows instructions without understanding what he is really doing. This way the car manufacture doesn’t need trained diagnostic technicians anymore and the aftermarket are cut off from any sensitive shared car manufacture information by the manufacture and the manufacture has not contravened any mandatory laws.
Great post - I think we're all feeling this pain. We are generally lumping this trend into the term 'guided diagnostics', where repair information, and in fact the entire diagnostic process, may be integrated into the tool (or the online tool interface) rather than offered as separate information. While this does get around information availability mandates, we suspect that the real reason for the shift is to allow each manufacturer to centrally control the diagnostic process for managing warranty cost, while simultaneously allowing them to data-mine results to make running changes, calibration updates, and even predict spare parts inventory requirements. It's an extremely irritating development, but we predict that this shift will continue, and that it is a legally defensible information strategy for the manufacturers.
To summarize that, we don't believe that the aftermarket is the primary target, but rather a secondary victim of the switch to centralized diagnostics. If anyone has information to the contrary, it would be an important talking (and lobbying) point for our community.
Our products have evolved specifically to combat this problem, focusing more on thought processes vs. the nearly-extinct technical data. Luckily, automotive systems are becoming more commoditized, so despite the differences in terminology and diagnostic interfaces, most diagnostic best-practices apply to most manufacturers. Going forward, we feel that aftermarket strategy-based information will help to fill the fact-based information gap, as further demonstrated by emerging groups like Trained By Techs. Hopefully, the 'shop-up' efforts of people in this community will give us all a collective edge, turning this challenge into an opportunity to differentiate all of our businesses.
I have to agree with Tim on this. I have worked with OEs and the aftermarket for over 20 years. As the Executive Officer of the National Automotive Service Task Force believe me when I say that automakers are not capable of a conspiracy. They are so uber competitive with one another and have so many different factions within each company there is just no way they could or would want to orchestrate such an effort. What I seem most is that the technical support folks are stretched beyond reasonable limits and they simply have to prioritize what they can pay attention to. The old adage is follow the money. If the OE is losing far more to warranty work than they can make by supporting the aftermarket it becomes pretty clear where the majority of their effort is going to go. I work with many fantastic folks at automakers who truly see the independent repair shop as allies in brand resale and customer satisfaction. I can't speak for other countries where these cultures and awareness have not yet been fostered. It has taken NASTF a very long time to get to this point in relationships between automakers and independents. Australia and other are in those developmental stages and hopefully the lessons we have learned here can be of benefit to other areas.
I will close with this. No matter how many ways you try to automate a system nothing on the planet is as resourceful or as adaptive in solving problems as a skilled automotive diagnostician. Only a highly trained human mind can turn a problem upside down and shake out a solution that seemingly defies convention. Artificial intelligence is a very long way from doing that and trouble trees have the word trouble in them for a good reason.
Accurate response Donny and right on the money. I spent most of my first 12 years in the trade in the aftermarket and since 1980 have been associated with only one manufacturer, first as a technician for 23 years and subsequently transitioned into instruction full-time since ~ … I've experienced a lot of change in my 50 years in this field and have observed many huge steps in North America where some manufacturers have willingly complied and actively participated in making available whatever has been required for the AM to maintain relative pace and tooling.
"Juggling" the demands of outside entities, while designing, engineering, building, marketing vehicles and keeping their franchisees capable of providing diagnosis, repairs and service, cannot be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.
Through my extensive history with the company as a dealership technician and from training apprentices and journey person upgrading and certification courses for the same manufacturer, I know full well and without any doubt that the manufacturer is working hard to keep up pace with advancing technologies, warranty and other developments.
Absolutely, manufacturers "enjoy" and participate in various alliances and relationships with other manufacturers, for the main objectives of reducing the costs of development of joint engineering design projects and component development. However, healthy levels of "competition" still exists with other manufacturers and is clearly evident. Earlier this week I was in Detroit for a conference where some technical information was shared by engineers for content and vehicles that have not yet been released for sale to the public. That information, photos, etc, cannot be shared simply because of the high level of marketing competition that exists between manufacturers engineering and marketing competing products.
Every person working at every level within the organization is working harder than ever before, while shouldering heavy responsibilities that are closely observed and scrutinized. As you mentioned and I fully agree that any thought of "conspiracy" theories would be completely way off the mark. The levels of required transparency and audit of most every process within these organizations is so high, that any hint of impropriety, is simply not tolerated or even possible in the current climate of automotive manufacturers "under the microscope".
These are hard working folks who "put their pants on" each day exactly the same way that we do. They are held to some very high and exacting standards in order to remain employees of the organization and simply do not engage in silly or risk being involved in undermining practices, because ultimately the costs can be very high.
FWIW, technical advancements that require training, tooling and development for the manufacturers dealership franchises, require continual lobbying and application for budgets and funding to support the design, training, tooling, diagnostic software and much more. So, when a new feature is added to a scan tool diagnostic software bundle, it is really the end result of providing justification that was subsequently able to secure approval for the funds to make it happen. Everything costs money!
Again, FWIW, when AM users of technical information, programming and other supporting systems experience issues, the dealerships also experience similar issues. When the system breaks, it is not selective and we all experience the same frustrations if it is the internal system that has "broken". Everything technical info wise is delivered through the same "pipe", but accessed via different portals or "doors". That is because the portal that we use is different, because there is information, training and training history information for franchisee entities and technicians that must remain secure.
This is content that is unrelated to any of the NASTF or other binding agreements. Quite simply put, outside entities cannot visit some of the information that is required in my work, in the same way that I cannot access Midas, Canadian Tire or any other business entity's internal systems, because I have no right or need to access their systems.
When there are issues with information systems being down we are typically all affected, whether it is in the workshop, training departments or whatever. There are no conspiracies to deny access. We are simply at the mercy of networks and systems that fail on occasion. There are times when entities that provide systems upgrades to computing firmware, software and operating systems, cause the resulting system failures that affect us when that software is installed and activated.
FWIW, just last week we received a complete network system upgrade that took several hours for the installing technician to get operational after the physical components and wiring had been installed and connected. He had installed the same system in every other location and encountered differing issues here and there across the country and in USA. When he left the building the system was working, computers, printers etc. The next morning, nothing worked, there was no internet due to technical issues. This was just another case of "stuff happens" and we managed to deal with it temporarily by re-connecting the old system that we had retained as a back up, just in case. We had that "Plan B" ready to institute, simply because we know from experience that stuff can "go sideways". Being prepared, avoided cancelling classes that would have resulted in plane flight costs and much more.
So, we are all at similar levels of "mercy" when it comes to computing and network systems, software updates that create new issues etc.
Situations such as this, have become the "norm" in the world of technology and computing, rather than being considered to be "conspiracies" by any stretch of the imagination. We are all similarly frustrated when this occurs and affects our abilities to perform our duties, but no one breaks systems just to prevent access. They spend time, effort and huge amounts of money just trying to keep it functional and validating every technical upgrade is demanding. Simply put, there are no hidden agendas save for beating competing manufacturers vehicle offerings in the market.