Editor’s Log: Priorities in Disorder

Toronto, Ontario — In January, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers fired the first shot by issuing a statement on the importance of following OEM repair procedures.

“All post-collision vehicle repairs must be conducted in accordance with the repair procedures issued by the vehicle’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM), specific to that vehicle’s year, make, and model,” wrote the Associations’ press release writers. “This includes any directives contained therein relative to pre- and post-scanning of vehicle systems.”

Just in case anyone in the auto repair sector wasn’t paying attention, it continued with a stark warning for industry professionals.

“Failure to follow OEM repair procedures in the course of a post-collision repair should be considered an unauthorized modification of a vehicle and its systems, introducing the potential for bodily injury and death to any future drivers and occupants of the vehicle, as well as occupants in other motor vehicles on the roadway.”

A cynic might abbreviate the entire message as: do as we say or suffer the potential legal consequences. This magazine is not written by cynics.

While the rest of the note may seek to absolve manufacturers for liability resulting from repairers performing off-book procedures, it opened with a statement describing the accepted duty common to all its signatory members.

“An automaker’s top priority is its customers’ safety, as is safeguarding the overall health of the motor vehicle fleet utilizing our nation’s shared roadways every day.”

While this magazine is prepared to take America’s auto manufacturers at their word, it is disinclined to accept that they are living up to this duty.

Rather than improving access to procedures, OEMs have a near-universal tendency to restrict access. By restricting access, OEMs can give certified and branded repair businesses an advantage over their peers, or to the repair procedure database provider of choice.

As for prioritizing branded facilities, it is easy to make a business case, but difficult to see how this restriction on access prioritizes safety over profitability. Surely, if manufacturers want all repairs to follow their proscribed procedures, they should publish them in a free-to-access manner.

When it comes to procedural databases, doubts are often cast on the accuracy of some procedures. This magazine has been alerted to several examples of differences between third-party procedures ostensibly written by OEMs and original documents.

While this may not be the fault of OEMs, the information would be reduced by providing across-the-board access to the latest procedures.

The greatest irony is that, though manufacturers may be the best-placed group to decide what is needed to return a vehicle to pre-accident condition, they do not come up with their procedures in a vacuum. While procedural guides are impressively thorough, they also undergo frequent updates as automakers respond to new collision information.

In several cases, remote diagnostic repair providers have contributed to the writing of OEM procedures. In turn, these providers have relied on information directly from auto repairers.

This should, of course, be celebrated—but it shows that the more feedback manufacturers get from the people repairing vehicles, the better they can write out procedures. And as “an automaker’s top priority is its customers’ safety,” it is also an automaker’s duty to work closely with auto repairers.

The sneering cynics may say auto manufacturers are insincere about their priorities.

This magazine welcomes the day they live up to their word.

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