From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Pricing Change Reflects the Absolute Need for Separate Charges for Scanning, Diagnostics
Written by Mike Anderson, Autobody News
Published October 7, 2020
I wanted to use my column this month to share with you a conversation I had recently with Jake Rodenroth of asTech.
As many of you are aware, asTech recently announced some price changes for the remote scanning and diagnostic services they offer, and that’s something a lot of people have been asking me about.
So I wanted to use this column to, first, provide some clarity on that, and separate the facts from the myths. Because I’ve been hearing some misinformation out there.
But this isn’t really about asTech. I’m just using what they’re doing to make my second and more important point, something I’ve been preaching for years---including in my column this past January---and that’s the absolute need for shops to separate out their scanning time and their diagnostic time.
So let’s start with asTech’s change. I asked Jake to explain the new pricing model they rolled out.
“I’m happy to explain it, but I also want to commend our company’s leadership for the research and consensus-building they did prior to making the change, and for the effort they’ve made to communicate and explain it,” Jake told me. “If you go to our website, astech.com, in the ‘resources’ section you can find a frequently asked questions document about the change, and they even established an email team, at email@example.com that can respond to any questions someone may have about the change.”
The pricing change, Jake told me, was designed to make asTech’s services “competitive with other providers out there.”
“When we started scanning vehicles for the collision industry, the bulk of the industry wasn’t scanning cars at all,” Jake said. “In the early days when I started with asTech, we were doing seven or eight cars a day. Now we’re well over 5,000. We hadn’t made a pricing change in four years, but decided it was the right thing to do.
"Now, for vehicles where there are no diagnostic issues---nothing the scan shows is out of whack, no steering angle sensor value that isn’t good or a seat weight sensor that is irregular---we made those scans $50. We broke up the service we do into pieces," he continued. "The scan itself is $50. If it needs a technician or a service manual or a wiring diagram in order to figure out a possible fix, then we charge a $69.95 fee on top of that scanning charge. That brings it back to what our original pricing was, which was $119.95.”
OK, I want to go on record as saying I, Mike Anderson, am absolutely, 100% in support of this. My agreement with this, however, is not because it makes asTech services competitive. The dollar figures are not my point or my concern.
I support this change because it’s high time our industry separates scanning time from diagnostic time. This pricing model does that.
Think about it: Diagnostic time varies. Just as judgement times varies based on the size of the damage, the accessibility to it and the substrate involved, diagnostic time varies. Isn’t the time it takes to research one diagnostic trouble code (DTC) different from researching five?
And it’s not just looking up the DTC. You then have to navigate the OEM repair procedures, the flow chart, to determine what the most probable cause is. If there are four possible causes, it might be the first one you try, or the fourth one. All this takes time.
I think asTech did the right thing here. But I don’t care if you use asTech, or another provider, or do it yourself in-house. What I care about, and the whole point of this article, is the need to separate out your diagnostic time from your scan time.
I also think there’s another lesson for shops from the change asTech made to its pricing model. The scanning and diagnostic charges are somewhat higher for certain makes of vehicles, such as Porsche. I asked Jake why.
“It comes down to the fact that our cost of goods sold is just higher for those vehicles,” Jake told me. “It’s not only the higher expense of the scan tools, but the higher cost to attract a tech who specializes in running the tools for those European models.
"The complexity of those vehicles also plays a role. From an R&D perspective, once we developed the software, we have to verify it, test the remote hook-up to the Porsche tool against a direct hook-up to the Porsche tool," he siad. "That means obtaining both new and wrecked Porches to simulate what our customers will send us. We need to cover that cost. We’re not just throwing a higher number out because it’s an expensive car. There’s real merit to it.”
That makes sense to me because it synchs up with what I’ve also preached to shops for years. You need to understand all the training and equipment and other costs involved in earning an OEM certification, and price accordingly.
I’m not focused here on whether the specifics of asTech’s pricing are good or bad, competitive or not competitive. I’m just in support of the change to separating out the scanning charge from the diagnostic charge.
In my opinion, that’s a change that every shop, no matter who does that work on the vehicles they repair, needs to make.