Repairing Consumer Trust: The Motorist Assurance Program 

May 13, 2024
Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association President Jeffrey Cox goes in-depth on the organization working to bolster customers’ confidence in repair shops.

Gaining consumer trust is one of the most crucial tasks for an auto repair shop. For drivers who have had some negative experiences with a repair shop, it can be hard to trust a service provider again. 

For the past three decades, this is the stigma the Motorist Assurance Program has been working to erase, having set up standards for all its members to abide by while also providing tools for consumers to make educated choices. Jeffrey Cox, president of MAP, tells more about the work the organization does to promote transparency and communication between customers and their independent repair shops. 

Creating a Standard 

Before MAP, there was a lack of regulations or standards when it came to auto repair businesses recommending parts to customers. It resulted in the formation of spiff programs, where part manufacturers offer shops incentives to sell as many of their parts as possible. 

This came to a head in 1992 when an investigation found that Sears auto repair shops across California were repeatedly recommending unnecessary parts. The incident prompted Congress to demand that action be taken. 

“Congress had stepped in hearings … and said, ‘There's got to be some type of regulation in the automotive industry,’” tells Cox. “‘And either you can self-regulate yourself, or we're going to step in, and we're going to regulate you.’” 

So, Sears, Midas, Firestone, Goodyear, Pep Boys, and Monroe came together to form the Motorist Assurance Program. It began with one simple question: what constitutes a certain part being recommended to a customer?  

Turns out there wasn’t one clear answer. Engineers and different subject matters were brought in to study what causes a certain part to fail, starting with shocks and struts and eventually expanding that research to every part of a vehicle, from windshield wipers to tires to ADAS. 

 

A United Industry 

Today, MAP has one mission: to build trust between auto repair shops and consumers. The organization consists of a little over 20,000 shops, including major retailers. In the past 5 years or so, the program has been especially interested in recruiting more independent shops, with over half of its membership today being represented by them. 

“What happens really is you have a lot of those big box retailers work on things for us and the independent shops reap the benefits,” Cox says. 

Currently, the most helpful resource MAP offers businesses is an application programming interface (API) that integrates its standards with any digital vehicle inspection software. 

“It puts the standards–which we call the Uniform Inspection and Communication Standards or UICS–it puts it at the fingertips of the technicians, and it ensures that every time they do an inspection if they are recommending something to a consumer, that it does follow our guidelines,” Cox explains. 

With the API integration, any time a technician goes through a digital vehicle inspection, they will see a list of symptoms for each part they select; if they select a windshield wiper, they’ll see a list that includes traits such as “streaking,” “squeaking,” or “torn.” They’ll select whichever applies from that list before the system automates whether a part replacement should be suggested—if it’s required or if it warrants consideration for replacement. 

“In the most simplest form, if you think about what we really created for the industry: we are the ones that created that ‘green, yellow, red’ format that you see on an inspection,” Cox muses. “Green is good, yellow [means] it's suggested, and red is required. And so that really came out of the work that we did.” 

For shops with entry-level techs, having them perform inspections can be difficult sometimes as they don’t know the same things to look for that a more experienced tech would. With MAP’s integrated software, it helps keep a shop’s entire team consistent. 

“If you ask shop owners or shop managers or region people, they'll say ‘Yeah, it's a double-edged sword with inspections, because when our best technician does the inspection, the average work order is higher because they know what they're looking for,’” explains Cox. “An earlier technician, the recommendation dollars are much lower because they're just not experienced enough. And so this levels that stuff out and it's really great for younger technicians right now, because of that technician shortage.” 

The software integration with digital inspections is far from the only resource MAP offers to independent shops. The organization keeps shops updated on everything they need to know that affects their business, such as changing technology.  

One example is the increase in new vehicles using 1234YF refrigerant, which will likely lead to a decline in what’s been traditionally used, 134A. If the price for 134A increases, it won’t remain profitable for shops to repair vehicles with it, leading to a practice that hasn’t been commonplace in the industry for around 20 years: retrofitting air conditioning.  

This is just one of many industry obstacles MAP is working with shop owners to prepare them for. In addition to keeping businesses updated on changing technology, the organization tracks every piece of legislation in the country and keeps its members updated monthly on changes that could impact them. 

“That's really helpful for independent shops. Because the bigger companies, when there's a regulation change through OSHA or EPA or through the state, they have a legal team that makes them aware of it,” explains Cox. “For the independent shops, it's usually the OSHA person standing there fining them before [they realize], ‘Oh, I can't do that anymore.’ And so we try to level the playing field there by getting that information out in front of them.” 

 

Empowering Consumers and Independent Businesses 

With an emphasis on establishing itself as a recognized name to consumers and businesses, MAP has a consumer-facing website that sees 30,000 visitors monthly, where they can find the nearest MAP member to them. 

Consumers put a lot of trust in their repair providers, especially when they can’t understand what jobs are and aren’t needed. Members of MAP can inherently gain attention from consumers just by being a member of the program. 

MAP’s goal is for its name to be recognized within and outside the industry. For shops in the Motorist Assurance Program, customers will have the relief of knowing any parts or services they’re being recommended are based on a widely agreed upon standard while shops gain the tools they need to compete with bigger names than them. 

“We want to make sure that people are doing the right things for the cars [and] for the consumers, and we want to make sure the consumers have the tools to make good decisions,” states Cox. 

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