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Sweigart: Is There One Way to Repair a Vehicle?

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NASHVILLE, TENN., Dec. 6, 2021—So, what does former Tesla and Lyft head of service, now industry consultant John Sweigart think the shop of tomorrow will look like? Well, for one, he believes it will be a far more customer-centric, process-centered business, he told attendees during his keynote at the ADAPT: Automotive Technology Summit.  

The days of over-repairing and over-charging will be over, he said, as you’re working on a vehicle that’s so smart and responsive, it will be nearly impossible to fudge which repairs are needed.

In all, it’s a new opportunity to own the customer, he said. 

“There was a question earlier of, ‘Is it possible to be on direct repair programs (DRPs) and OEM certification programs? I say, who cares about either one of those things? The customer certainly doesn’t,” Sweigart said. “I think there’s an opportunity to redefine that. Insurers have exploited that for a long time to convince us to specialize and speak for the customer. That may not exist anymore.”

That new opportunity doesn’t come without a few red flags, though, Sweigart cautioned.

For one, he believes OE certifications could lead the way to commoditization among shops.

“To me this is a concern to say, if we all follow the OE procedures, then the only thing we can compete on is price. Now we’re all gas stations on the corner,” he said.

Although EV-OEs produce repair information, Sweigart said, it’s because they have to. 

“They don’t want to; this is an expense. And are they the right ones to decide and do they stand behind the repairs? Is this the only way to make a proper repair?” he said. “Tesla says, ‘Well, it’s a way to repair a car.’ But is it the way to repair a car?”

During the audience Q&A, Sweigart was asked where he believed the line is between those two distinctions, and he pointed to safety.

“Obviously anything that has to do with high-voltage is really important. Self-driving is really important to understand. But I know that Tesla, for example, is willing to learn about better procedures because they want to make the car cheaper to fix,” he said. “My guess is the line around safety and even that’s a blurry line; what does that mean, to say it’s a safe repair?”

That’s partly why the need to have a holistic approach to repairs, and even technicians, is needed. The idea that each technician can serve as an independent contractor will end, Sweigart said, and the rise of a unified back of the shop will need to take its place.

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