MAY 2013 EDITION
ASK THE OEM
In Design, Do Auto Engineers Consider Repair?
A recent dialog between technicians on iATN and a separate but related comment in a magazine interview abstractly discusses the subject of "engineering new vehicles with repairability in mind."
Becky Witt (George Witt Service/Lincoln, NE) opened the iATN discussion with the generalization that many vehicles are "hostile to repair" to the point where it seems OEM engineers receive no input in design from the OEM maintenance/service group.
While NASTF is not charged with engaging OEMs at the design and engineering level, NASTF does provide a unique link between the concerns of independent technicians and the OEM. In that spirit, NASTF asked a few OEMs to weigh in on this conversation. The consensus of OEM response was that OEMs generally do include their maintenance/service experts throughout the engineering development of new vehicles, especially in recent decades.
Here is how American Honda (AH) and Dennis Blough of Suzuki responded to NASTF's questions:
1. Does your company believe or have data to prove/disprove a correlation between long-term customer satisfaction and the repairability of your vehicles?
AH: American Honda has and will continue to represent the customer, do it yourself owner, and the technician in the design of our vehicles. Honda has always tried to represent these groups, but formally created the maintenance group back in the late 1980s. It was the mission of the maintenance group to take an active role in the development of our vehicles.
D. Blough of Suzuki: I know for sure that our parent company understands the importance of the repairability of our vehicles as the topic has been present in many meetings over my 6 years with this OEM. The cost limitations and production requirements limit the ability of any OEM to build the ultimate vehicle design with easy access and easily repaired components. And crash worthiness / safety requirements often trump the best design intentions.
2. In your company, how is repairability treated in the early stages of engineering; relating both to vehicle design and to assembly line productivity?
AH: During the design process the vehicle is reviewed multiple times by the maintenance team and items are documented for the designers to review. The maintenance group is on site at the Research and Development centers and work with the designers on a daily basis. Maintenance is one of the many requirements being considered during this process. Safety, manufacturability, weight, cost, etcetera all have an impact on the vehicle and are considered during the development.
D. Blough of Suzuki: Like most OEMs, we are focused on cost controls and cost reduction and this requires us to seek maximum efficiencies. A movement towards more and more modular sub-assemblies delivered just in time by low cost suppliers may be a major contributing force to service difficulties. When a vendor is tasked with building a given product to a specific performance spec and price point. They do their best and often deliver a good quality system or assembly which meets all the specifications when lab tested or even field tested. These vendors may not have the ability to test fit their final assemblies into the actual final production level vehicle in conjunction with the latest generation of other subassemblies from other vendors due to security concerns or non-disclosure agreements. The latest component from Vendor “A” may fit and function fine with the legacy system from vendor “B” however the new model year product is also receiving a new sub assembly from vendor “B” which vendor “A” doesn’t see or know about until it is far too late to make changes.
3. What, if any, trends do you detect that affect repairability?
AH: With the increase in the number of features, push to increase fuel economy (reduce weight), provide more space for the occupants/cargo, improve vehicle safety, the available space to service the vehicle is becoming more difficult to obtain. Although we are reviewing the vehicle for maintainability, we are tasked with finding the correct balance of the complete design so it provides the greatest benefit to our customers.
D. Blough of Suzuki: Once upon a time mechanics repaired units. Today we normally replace everything -- ie. starters, alternators, engines, automatic transmissions, steering racks, differentials -- as an assembly. In the process we are losing the technician's understanding of how these components even work or how to fix them. That new technician who installs a reman alternator and then a 2nd reman and then a 3rd reman on the same vehicle when the customer returns with the same dead battery day after day only to find a broken wire or a grounded wire after multiple alternator replacements has a high cost - not only in hard dollars but in customer satisfaction as with multiple trips to the service shop for the same issue because the technician simply replaced an assembly without taking time to properly diagnose and “REPAIR” the vehicle. Reparability is not just the difficulty to get to a spark plug or oil filter. Reparability includes the skills and knowledge level of the technician as well as the OEMs willingness to allow repairs of components.
Pete Meier of AutoPro Workshop has produced a video on Ford's approach to building a serviceable vehicle. The interesting aspect of this video is the use of virtual modeling for service in digital designs. To watch that video CLICK HERE.
Obviously, not all OEMs will engage their maintenance/service groups to the same degree and some will execute solutions more effectively than others.
Blough, Manager for Technical Quality at Suzuki, also provided some closing thoughts on this subject. "The actual true “reparability” of any vehicle is a factor of many ingredients just like a great recipe. Product design and engineering, OEM production methods, technician knowledge and experience, availability of proper diagnostic equipment, availability of required (or optional) special tools, availability of required parts, as well as the vehicle owner's budget (can they afford a 'proper repair' or does the technician have to try and remove and repair a component designed as a “throw away” due to customer budget and cost constraints?).
"As OEMs, we need to do a better job designing and building vehicles. As new car dealers and independent shop owners and technicians there needs to be greater participation in training, a greater demand for training and an increased demand for service tools to improve your ability to service the modern automobile."
NEWS FROM THE OEMs
OEM Tech Website Navigation Errors - Before you get frustrated trying to navigate various OEM technical subscription web services, check the site's "system requirements". Many OEM websites do not display best in all internet browsers and downloaded files may not work if you are not using a compatible version of the Windows or Mac operating software. Common too are problems due to incompatible versions of Adobe and Java. You can find an index of OEM tech websites at www.nastf.org/OEMtechsites.
Here is an example. Thanks to our NASTF contact at Mazda for relaying a solution that helped a tech in Texas last month. In this situation, NASTF could not duplicate the error the tech was experiencing when attempting to purchase a Mazda subscription. The solution was for the tech to switch the "compatibility mode" on their laptop's web browser. See the picture below for a clue as to how to make that switch in an Explorer browser.
Saab - With Saab out of the US sales market and no official NASTF SIR contact for them, NASTF was still able to assist with a recent SIR thanks to assistance for NASTF from GM corporate and locally for the client by AC/Delco . The OEM did promptly contact client upon NASTF's notice. Client informs NASTF that they were unable to reprogram using the Ease laptop but by loading Saab software on their Tech 2 they were able to perform the service. Saab's European support was able to sell the 48 hour service subscription over the telephone where the Euro-to-US Dollar transaction resulted in a cost of $26.60 to the client.
When visiting the Saab tech info website, www.saabtechinfo.com, it may be helpful to understand the distinction between the various subscription options. Note that WebEPC is the Parts Catalogue, WebWIS is the Service Information and Repair methods, and TIS2Web is for Diagnostics.
Chrysler - A recent SIR concerned the inability of reprogramming the WIN module using J2534 pass-thru on a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country and it raised a question regarding Chryslers commitment to J2534.
First, it is important to know that Chrysler is phasing in J2534 in the U.S. for non-emission related reprogrammable modules (like WIN) as they, at the same time, phase them into Europe. In the meanwhile, their wiTech tool (see http://bit.ly/158PgUg), available to the aftermarket works to program those applications. There is also a wiTech Lite, lower-cost option, that can also program those applications.
The Euro 5 European standard already requires J2534 reprogramming on all reprogrammable vehicle modules, and Chrysler indicates it is phasing in the U.S. counterpart vehicles along with the phase-in for the European market.
In a special message to NASTF, Chrysler reaffirmed their commitment to NASTF, the independents and to J2534.
Also, aftermarket techs do not use Chrysler's dealerconnect.com ever. They must use www.techauthority.com and for all programming files must have purchased at least a 3-day, $35 tech subscription. For files not compatible with J-2534, they are available to the aftermarket the same way they are available to Chrysler dealers, only downloadable to the wiTECH or wiTECH Lite tools.
Volvo - When visiting volvotechinfo.com seeking to purchase a subscription for the purpose of downloading a reflash file, it may not be clear to you which subscription you need. Find the subscriptions under the STORE tab. "VIDA on the Web" provides technical information - Parts Catalog and Repair Methods, etc. "VIDA All in One via DVD only" provides parts info, repair methods, vehicle diagnostics and software download (reprogramming) capabilities. Furthermore, if you need HELP with the VIDA subscription ahead of your purchase, use SUPPORT under the HELP tab at the top of the page. The "help" which is part of the CONTACT US link at the bottom of the page applies only to the Volvo book store products.
NASTF COMMITTEE NEWS
Service Information Committee - Visit the NASTF SIC page at www.nastf.org/Committees/SIC. Techs having trouble completing jobs due to OEM access to service information and tools continue to post their questions on NASTF's Service Information Request (SIR) on-line response system. Review recent SIRs by visiting www.nastf.org/SIRarchive.
Vehicle Security Committee - Visit the NASTF VSC page at www.nastf.org/Committees/VSC.
Equipment & Tool Committee - Visit the NASTF ETC page at www.nastf.org/Committees/ETC. While in Denver recently, NASTF Executive Director, Skip Potter, drove out to visit ETC co-chair Donny Seyfer at his shop to discuss the ETC's Scan Tool guide project and a Tool-related presentation during the November 6 NASTF Fall 2013General Meeting in Las Vegas. The ETC has a conference call set for 11am eastern/8am pacific, Wednesday, May 22. Dial-in information will be emailed in advance to all ETC members. Anyone wanting to join the ETC should send their request to email@example.com.
Education Committee - Visit the NASTF EduC page at www.nastf.org/Committees/Education. NASTF's Potter had discussions in April with EduC co-chairs Karen Miller and Rob Morrell. This is NASTF's newest committee and is reviewing strategies to connect technicians with existing OEM education resources. Anyone wanting to join the EduC should send their request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collision Committee - Visit the NASTF ColC page at www.nastf.org/Committees/Collision. NASTF's Potter and ColC co-chair Bob Chabot are reviewing Collision topics for a presentation November 6 at the NASTF Fall 2013 General Meeting in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, NASTF continues discussions with I-CAR representatives to determine how the two groups can engage on common initiatives.
Communications Committee - Visit the NASTF ComC page at www.nastf.org/Committees/Communications
ON MY MIND
Editorial by NASTF Executive Director, Skip Potter
NASTF INSTEAD OF ALLDATA? - One of my greatest challenges is to grow awareness of NASTF among U.S. technicians. My second greatest challenge is to explain what NASTF is and is not. I had a request this month from a shop owner who had apparently stumbled upon NASTF's popular and valuable index of OEM technical websites and thought our free membership was an easy way to reduce shop expenses.
Of course I would agree that a NASTF membership could help any shop become more informed and thus improve productivity, which ultimately cuts the percentage of costs to revenue. However, this caller's motive was to use a NASTF membership to replace their AllData Repair subscription. STOP, I warned. NASTF does not do what AllData does. So this got me wondering. What is it that a successful shop needs or has already to satisfy their daily requirements for outside intelligence?
Many techs I know keep a long list of resources handy, including one or more of the paid subscriptions like AllData, Mitchell-1 and Identifix; a close relationship with their aftermarket scan tool supplier, a hotline to their favorite technical trainers like Dave Scaler and Craig Van Batenburg; membership in iATN; a NASTF LSID if they are working on vehicle security and the index of OEM technical websites at www.nastf.org/OEMtechsites.
What or who did I forget. Write me at email@example.com and I will pass along your list of valuable resources for outside intelligence in a future newsletter.
NASTF IS ON THE ROAD
ATMC - In snowy Denver for three days in mid-April more than 120 OEM and aftermarket training managers gathered for their annual conference. NASTF's Skip Potter was the moderator of a discussion about sharing between and within companies. For more on this meeting of the Automotive Training Managers Council and to see presentation materials visit their website at www.atmc.org.
Also on this trip, Potter was invited to brief a group of 30 OEM training managers about the efforts of NASTF. He asked for their support of new initiatives by the NASTF Education Committee that will attempt to make existing OEM advanced technical education materials easily accessible to independent technicians.
ETI - Potter presented an update of NASTF's activities to the membership of the Equipment & Tool Institute at their San Diego meeting at the end of April. In addition, Potter represented NASTF in a panel discussion on the topic of Collaboration. For more information about the Equipment and Tool Institute visit their website at www.etools.org.
ASA Sunrise Arizona - Potter will have the honor of speaking to the attendees of the Sunrise Automotive Training Expo & Convention presented by ASA-AZ on Saturday, July 20 in Prescott, AZ. While awareness of NASTF activities will be Potter's justification for the travel, his message The Rewards of Cooperation will reveal how Potter's career-long personal commitment to sharing in professional relationships squares with his new role as NASTF's Executive Director. For info visit www.asaaz.org
NASTF@AAPEX/SEMA - Presentation topics, speakers and special guests are being collected now for a June announcement of the November 6, NASTF 2013 Fall General Meeting program at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. Watch for NASTF news in the May newsletter but learn more about the trade shows at www.aapexshow.com and www.semashow.com.
NASTF IN THE NEWS
NASTF is very fortunate to enjoy substantial support from the automotive media in helping pass along important news releases about NASTF initiatives. When the media initiates a NASTF story or interview, we want to let NASTF supporters know what they are saying.
Automakers Should Be Working Closely with the Aftermarket said NASTF member Mark Saxonberg (Toyota USA) in an interview with Matthew Sevart for Parts & People, a popular western U.S. trade publication. Read the full story HERE. Sevart conducted the interview during VISION2013 where NASTF was holding its Spring General Meeting and had attracted eight OEM managers in its mission to connect OEMs with Technicians. Look around the Parts & People online edition and you will also see NASTF news releases, as well.