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ASE to Manage NASTF

(Akron/Tire Review – aftermarketNews.com) Many changes are afoot at the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), the not-for-profit group that takes responsibility for identifying and rectifying gaps in the availability and accessibility of automotive service information and tools to independent repair shops.

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At its most recent meeting on Mar. 22, the NASTF planning group voted to accept one of three proposals for the formal management of the task force, which up until now has been entirely volunteer-led.

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Out of proposals from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Equipment & Tool Institute (ETI) and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the group has selected ASE to manage the task force.

While members of the NASTF planning group agreed all three organizations would do a good job, it came down to a matter of funding. According to Charlie Gorman, NASTF member and executive manager of ETI, some members expressed concerns that the group would not be able to raise the funds necessary to accept SAE’s proposal – leaving only ETI’s and ASE’s proposals on the table. Needing to make a decision by the group’s Apr. 4 board meeting, Gorman announced ETI would withdraw its proposal in order to simplify the decision-making process.

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With respect to funding, the group voted that for the first year, members of the NASTF board would have full voting rights regardless of making funding contributions; however, for the second year, voting rights will be limited only to those parties that do contribute to funding operations.

Absent from the March meetings were representatives from the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP), the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and the Mechanics Education Association (MEA).

In a letter to NASTF Chair John Cabaniss dated Feb. 23, these three associations announced they would not attend a Mar. 1 meeting in Dallas. (They were also not present for the Mar. 22 meeting.) The letter claimed that Cabaniss discussed with Congressional representatives the associations’ participation in NASTF as reason not to continue pursuing Right to Repair legislation. The three associations said this mischaracterized their positions on NASTF and Right to Repair.

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While the groups said they strongly support any discussions that would help resolve issues related to the availability of service information and tools to independent repair shops, they do not believe formalizing NASTF would help resolve these issues.

“At this point, we do not believe that the efforts being undertaken as part of formalizing NASTF will resolve our information and tool issues and therefore [we] continue to support the passage of Right to Repair legislation,” the associations stated in the letter.

While these three specific associations decided not to attend the March meetings, they have not completely withdrawn from the task force, according to Aaron Lowe, vice president of government affairs for AAIA.

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“No, we have not withdrawn from NASTF,” said Lowe. ”We are hopeful that once either the legislation is enacted or a non-legislative agreement is reached that ensures an enforceable and comprehensive requirement for information and tool availability, we will be able to participate as full supporters and proponents of NASTF. However, the car companies have rejected our invitation to restart the negotiations and resolve the issues left on the table during the negotiations last summer.”

Regardless of their current level involvement, the market segments supported by these associations will continue to have representation on the NASTF governing board, which is comprised of 15 members that will serve two-year terms beginning in April. The market segments to be represented include: shop owners, technicians, dealers, locksmiths, tool companies, automotive trainers, third party information providers, OEMs and parts manufacturers. These market segments will be represented by members from their respective industry associations participating in the task force.

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The formalization process for NASTF has moved fairly swiftly. The group first announced plans to pursue a formal management process in December 2005.

“Frankly, I think it reflects that the common interest among all the parties is to improve things for the industry as a whole,” said Cabaniss, who also serves as director of environment and energy for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. “It’s kind of an uphill fight sometimes for the automakers because it seems all the negative stuff is always focused on them – the allegations of not doing this or that. Whatever the issue is, the finger always seems to be pointed at the automakers. All groups involved, including the automakers, are trying to make good faith efforts to do what is needed to be done. Everyone’s view is always a little different, in terms of what that means, but the end objective is the same.

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“I think having a collegial cooperative process, which is what NASTF is supposed to be, so far has worked,” Cabaniss said. “Maybe it’s not moving as fast as some would like, but I think we can do a lot more if we work together than if we work at odds with each other.”

Cabaniss added that simply bringing the various groups together for dialogue through NASTF is a valuable process in and of itself.

Discussion of the ‘enforcement’ process for NASTF has been tabled until the Apr. 4 board meeting, which will take place in Detroit. Cabaniss said he expects the transition to ASE-led management of NASTF to begin Apr. 1.

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