The AAAA plans a 13-member Automotive Repairers Council of Australian (ARCA) – the fourth AAAA sub-branch – to represent repairers and technicians across the nation and particularly become the mouthpiece for an ongoing push to allow independent repairers access to technical data from manufacturers.
AAAA executive director Stuart Charity said the independent automotive repair and service sector “is under significant threat”.
“The challenges facing this small business sector arise from the rapid pace of technological change, skills and training gaps, and the anti-competitive behaviour of the car companies,” he said.
“The time is right for the formation of a truly national service and repair representative group. The AAAA has responded by facilitating the ARCA initiative.
“This new Council will operate across state borders to provide structure and much needed formal links to the rest of the automotive parts and accessories supply chain.”
But the MTAA disagrees.
ARCA is a waste of time and effort by a busy industry that is already time poor
Its CEO, Richard Dudley, told GoAutoNews Premium that a national voice for repairers already exists and that the ARCA is a waste of time and effort by a busy industry that is already time poor.
The group chief executive officer of the MTA in WA, Stephen Moir, said the MTAA already had a national representative group in the Australian Automotive Repair Association.
“Stuart Charity’s claim that the time is right for a truly national service and repair representative group is misleading,” Mr Moir said.
“The MTAA through its state associations represent in excess of 37,000 repairers across the country.
“Stuart is clearly trying to build a membership base given that manufacturing is dying in this country.”
Both Mr Moir and Mr Dudley said the AAAA was not working cooperatively with the automotive sector to identify a way forward with access to technical information.
We are trying to get agreement but we can’t do it when everyone is leaving the reservation
“The MTAs and automotive chambers are working closely with FCAI and the AADA to develop a fair system for the access to technical information,” Mr Moir said.
“The formation of yet another group will only further confuse the decision makers who need to hear a consistent message from industry.
“If the AAAA was serious about wanting to move this important issue along then it would work closely with the established representative bodies and not attempt to disguise its real motive which is to set up yet another representative group.”
Mr Charity said the ARCA was started in response to demand from the independent automotive repair and service sector.
The ARCA will join the existing AAAA industry councils supporting the Performance Racing and Tuning, Four Wheel Drive and the Automotive Products Manufacturers and Exporters sectors.
Mr Charity disagreed that the ARCA would duplicate the roles of other industry committees.
“It is important to stress that the ARCA is designed to complement rather than compete against the state based industry bodies such as the MTAs and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
“Those organisations provide valued services to retail motor trade businesses and ARCA has no plans to mirror their service offerings.
“The ARCA strategy is to fill identified gaps in the market – especially the need for strong independent workshop advocacy.
“It is fully expected that ARCA members will see value in having dual ARCA and MTA/VACC memberships.”
Mr Dudley said the establishment of another committee was happening “when the entire automotive sector is under significant pressure at the moment and has been for a number of years”.
“We are watching businesses close and while we’re not saying access to repair information and the ability for independent mechanical repairers to undertake their trade is not of paramount importance, it needs to be viewed in the context that if we have two associations fighting over the same discreet issue then we’re losing the bigger picture,” Mr Dudley said.
“The bigger picture is that these industries need a nationwide industry business framework.
“We need attention from the government to the fact that even though manufacturing is closing, there is 95 per cent of the industry supporting 18 million-plus vehicles.
“Therefore recognition of the automotive sector needs to be taken into account and that’s why we have secured changes including access to information for independent mechanical repairers.
“We think this access can be improved and we’re working with the FCAI to try and further that agreement to ensure we can all come up with even better solution.
“If we get the first signal that this isn’t working and there is consumer detriment and our members are suffering, then we will go to the ACCC and get a voluntary code to be enforced upon the industry because of its own inability to do it itself.
“We are trying to get agreement but we can’t do it when everyone is leaving the reservation.
“Our industry is now presenting itself as fragmented and more concerned with its own needs and wishes as opposed to trying to resolve the problem from a consumer perspective and the industry sector’s perspective.”
The AAAA said that the ARCA will be managed by a 13-member committee with 12 people elected for two-year terms from its membership and one appointed from the AAAA national council.
The inaugural ARCA convener is Mike Smith and the committee includes industry leaders drawn from independent workshops and major service and repair groups representing all mainland states.
By Neil Dowling