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GM's Bob Stewart on OEM, Aftermarket Cooperation

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In the weeks leading up to its Summit this December in Nashville, ADAPT Automotive will talk with several keynote speakers and other presenters who will be at the conference about pressing topics and trends facing the industry.

This week, Bob Stewart, aftermarket service manager for General Motors, talks about why OEMs working with the aftermarket, instead of against it, is so crucial in today's industry.

As told to Digital Multimedia Editor Noah Brown

I think a lot of it is the fear of the unknown. Everything that's governed the availability of service information access on our internal combustion engine vehicles has always been emissions related. When you go to electric vehicles, do those emissions regulations have the same governing rules over those vehicles? 

There's a lot of concern that things are going to change. We standardized the diagnostic link connector for all manufacturers so that you can have consistent, universal tools to plug in and actually read diagnostic information out of the vehicles. I had heard some concerns that, with EVs, there's nothing to control that anymore. It's going to be the Wild West. 

I can only speak for General Motors, but we're still going to keep the diagnostic link connector and our EVs. We still need to service them in the same way.It doesn't make sense for an OE to create a different connector just in our EV vehicles. We'd have to have a different cable, we have to have a different tool. Everything would have to be different, and anytime you have to buy two things instead of one, it just doesn't make economical sense.

So we're going to stay consistent, because if a technician can consistently use the same tool for whatever they’re doing, it's better service. And that's what we're always looking for, is to have the best service experience for the technician and for the vehicle owner. We want to make sure that the tools are easy to use and that they're there.

I think it's critical that OEMs view the aftermarket as an ally. There are those outlying companies that don't service the aftermarket at the same level we do, and that's where you get complaints from. The whole OEM sector gets painted with a broad paint brush that we’re the bad guys because one or two aren't providing necessary information. The tools need to be available out there because the car parc at the independents are working on, typically, are slightly different than the dealer car parc.

The dealers are usually working on the brand-new vehicles, especially the ones that are under warranty, because who wants to take a vehicle to an independent and pay for something if the manufacturer has it covered under warranty? Then you have a small window there in the middle that's an overlap of years, and then you have vehicles beyond the overlap that all go to the independents. 

There's still a small portion of people that are always going to take their vehicle to the dealer, and there’s a small percentage of people that are always going to take it to the aftermarket. But at the end of the day, that's a GM vehicle owner. We want them to have a great experience with the service of their vehicle and we want it fixed properly. That's why we invest in training classes. We have a whole group that does training for the aftermarket on a lot of our new products and systems out there because we find that to be important and critical to the business.

I want this stuff to be out there public. I want everybody that works on our vehicles to have what they need, so we just need to do a better job to get information out and to get it to as many people as we can. We need to make sure that we focus on making sure the service information is correct and has the right diagnostics in it before so that independent technicians can repair these vehicles.

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