Editorial – Shop Licensing – What can we do with $100,000,000?
Shop Licensing – What can we do with $100,000,000?
First, let’s eliminate the backyard, underground, illegal hack shops.
Next let’s allow only competent technicians to work on cars.
Then we can get all legitimate shops to regularly write sizable checks to the state.
We can make car repair more costly for the consumer.
Plus, we can significantly increase paperwork and crossing “t’s” and dotting “i’s” in the daily life of shop owners.
Now, all we have to do is get government on board and, when all is said and done, depend solely on government to make this all come true. After all, government regulations have been the savior of a whole host of industries. There’s…well…I’ll get back to this later.
History is one of the best indicators of how things are likely to go, so let’s look at how the state with arguably the strictest licensing has fared. Michigan has collected well over $100M in fees from the auto service industry since their licensing law was implemented.
Several of the goals above have been achieved. Increased paperwork, increased repair costs and over $20,000 in licensing fees for a typical shop. $20,000. Seriously.
Tech competency may be slightly better.
Backyard, underground, illegal hack shops? Many would say there are more now than ever. Going after such shops seems to be the number one selling point for licensing proponents, yet it simply will not happen. Cars have been repaired in backyards for over 100 years and will be for the next 100 years. Those who do so are determined and will always find plenty of ways to stay clear of any regulations. What proponents do not comprehend (or choose to ignore) is that the idea of state regulators combing the countryside for people working on cars in backyards is simply a myth. It does not occur in Michigan and it won’t occur in any other state. What the regulators will do is go after the low hanging fruit – the shop who registered and got their license. Easy targets for checking paperwork, signage, and a host of other details. Backyard shops take far too much effort to pursue. Anyone who tells you different is dreaming. Ask them for examples of successful efforts anywhere. There are none. If there were you would be hearing about it regularly.
Question: Would the auto service industry in Michigan be better off today if ASA Michigan (or AASP or ASC, etc.) had controlled the spending of that $100,000,000 (or even 10% of that) instead of the state? Imagine the training, consumer information campaigns and other assistance that could have been provided to Michigan shops with funding like that.
The answers to the problems this industry has can be found in many places. First, at your shop. Then there are other shop owners, trade associations, ASE and educational efforts. Yet so many in our industry seem to want to look to government for the solutions. Why on earth would anyone associated with a trade association want shops to have the added expense of licensing? Is it because the trade associations are rolling in so much excess cash that they believe shops would be better off spending that dues money for a state license?
Are we as shop owners so inept that we cannot deal with Backyard Bob down the street by informing our customers what they get with us and what they get with him? Sure there will be some people who do not get it – these are the ones that you do not want as customers anyway! BB is doing you a favor by taking them.
Are we so helpless that we need government to determine if a tech is good enough to work on a car in our shop? We just can’t tell without a government license?
Look up the most successful shop owners in your state. See how much time they spend complaining about unfair competitors and hoping for government to make it all fair for everyone. They spend none. Instead they put their efforts towards making their business and industry a raging success.
Which industries have been significantly elevated via government regulation? No, I can’t think of any, either.
Regulation primarily does two things for our industry currently. Decreases profits (or costs consumers money depending on how you view it) and starves positive private and association efforts for funding. Can you find a few benefits here and there with some regulations? Sure – that’s true with just about anything. But they are vastly outweighed by the cost and negatives.
How about we spend our time working on elevating our shops and our industry without government help. If we are going to get involved with government, then let’s start figuring out which regulations we can get rid of. That’s a government project that I can get behind.
Owner of Auto Centric in Grand Rapids, Michigan
President of AutomotiveManagementNetwork.com