April 15, 2003

Canadian Tire says APA study of automotive repair shops is flawed

Montreal, Quebec – The 2003 report on automotive repair shops by the Automobile Protection Association (APA) released on Friday is fundamentally flawed and should be considered only in that context, says Canadian Tire.

In a press release to the media, Canadian Tire stated, “In spite of the flawed nature of this study, we fully accept that Canadian Tire plays an important role on the front line with customers and we accept full responsibility for the few instances in which errors were made.

We want to be clear: Canadian Tire fully supports the goal of customer education and making the customer experience the best that it can be, but we do not believe that this particular study is either representative or helpful in delivering on that goal.

Mr. Iny raises questions around commission to counter staff which is simply not true. Canadian Tire uses a flat rate system which is widely used throughout the industry. In terms of the remuneration of employees, this is a private matter between the employee and his employer. What’s important to consider here is how customers are charged for work that’s done.

The flat rate system means that work is charged in units of labour, based on the industry standard for how long it takes to complete a given task. In some cases, technicians will finish a job more quickly or take longer but in either case, the customer is not penalized and pays the same unit charge for the work. It’s based on the task – not on the time it takes to repair the vehicle.

To return to our concerns about the APA study, we believe that there are
some serious flaws which are as follows:

  • First, while the APA is quick to state the percentage of car repair
    shops that have failed or passed its test, the sample of shops
    visited is so miniscule (one out of every 600) that extrapolating to
    pass judgment on an entire industry or commercial enterprise is
    completely irresponsible, in Canadian Tire’s view;

  • Second, the proportion of repair shops visited by the APA has no
    bearing whatsoever on the distribution of the aftermarket automotive
    business in Canada. That market is made up of independents, chains
    and car dealerships, with each segment representing one-third of the
    market. These proportions are ignored in the APA study, with
    greatest emphasis on the national chains and little to no
    representation for the other two-thirds of the industry. Indeed,
    while Canadian Tire owns less than eight percent of the Canadian
    aftermarket automotive business, it represents more than 30 percent
    of the sites visited in the APA study. It is also interesting to
    note that no APA-recommended garages are included in this study.

In essence, APA seems more intent on grabbing media attention for its
‘gotcha’ auto service study than in truly educating the public on automotive
repair shops. For its part, Canadian Tire is committed to customer education
and welcomes an industry-wide effort to scientifically measure the performance
of auto repair shops.

Automotive expert Pierre Michaud’s study on APA-recommended garages shows
that only one out of six garages visited tested successfully. Shouldn’t the
APA clean up its own act before playing judge and jury on this industry?

In instances where the APA has not given Canadian Tire a passing grade,
we believe that it is not representative of the service quality that 3,000
technicians provide to more than 13,000 customers each and every day. In any
event, Canadian Tire stands behind its work. If an error has been made in a
particular case, we treat the situation very seriously and make it right for
the customer.

Also, should a responsible mechanic see that further work is required on
a vehicle, one would expect him to point that out to his client. Furthermore,
should no check-up have been done in quite a while, one would expect him to
recommend such an examination. For instance, should the mechanic see that the
brakes were worn out, he should certainly point this out to his customer in
order to save him a possible accident and a lot of money, since it is always
better to fix a part before it breaks than to wait. Waiting can sometimes
causes further damage or even major breakdowns. That is precisely why
automobile manufacturers recommend practicing routine preventive maintenance
and that consumers should always abide by the maintenance schedule that is
posted for their vehicles. Canadian Tire believes services such as these are
in the best interests of motorists to reduce the risk of roadside breakdowns
and major repairs associated with neglected maintenance services.

Canadian Tire is the industry leader in terms of interactive long
distance learning for its automotive technicians, with two hours per day
offered four days a week. Last year, Canadian Tire’s callback program to more
than 2.1 million customers demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of
customers are satisfied with the automotive service they received at Canadian
Tire Auto Service Centres. Moreover Canadian Tire’s National Service Council,
which includes all Auto Service Centres, continually works on the
standardization of processes, documentation and measurement – namely with a
ghost car study of its own – to ensure continuous quality improvement
programs. Canadian Tire can and does invest in the business, our people and in
the systems and processes we have in place to make sure we can take care of
our customers and service them properly.”

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