Thursday, 13 May 2010 08:29

Automotive Aftermarket Industry Objects to 'Misleading' PR Initiative by AutoMD

The following is a joint statement by the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA). The organizations are national and statewide membership organizations, respectively, of aftermarket service repair facilities and represent thousands of small business owners.

Recent public relations initiatives by AutoMD, a division of US Auto Parts Network, warrant a strong and clear response from the automotive repair and service industry. The company's recent activities include a press release ranking U.S. cities according to the "honesty" of auto repair facilities in each city, as well as a television segment on the CBS Early Show. In both of these PR efforts the company makes several claims and promotes a set of conclusions that are inaccurate and based on flawed logic and biased methods.

We take particular issue with two of AutoMD's efforts:

1) In a press release (Feb. 24, 2010), the company reported that it had "conducted a fairness check of over 600 shops in the top-50 DMAs” (including a range of dealers, independent shops, and franchises like Pep Boys)" to create a "Repair Shop Fairness Report" that ranked the "best and worst cities for auto repair." A company that distributes auto parts knows better than anyone that parts quality and price varies substantially by brand, often 100% or more, and no mention of parts brand or quality was included in the survey. It also failed to account for differences in technician training, warranties included with the parts used, quality of equipment used and level of service provided by each type of facility. Furthermore, in each of the 50 cities included in their survey there are thousands of dealers, independent shops and chain stores. Their survey included an average of 12 shops per city, a number not anywhere close to what is needed to get an accurate or representative sample. Using biased methods allows US Auto Parts to reach whatever conclusions it desires.

2) In a segment on the CBS Early Show (April 14, 2010), the company brought its specially prepared vehicles to shops and dealerships in several states, asking for quotes on a front brake pad replacement at several shops. The CEO, Shane Evangelist, claimed the job should cost "about $180" and stated emphatically that mechanics were ripping off consumers by charging more than $180. One mechanic that offered to do the job for $169 was widely praised for his honesty. Once again, no mention of parts quality, technician training or the quality of the equipment used in the facility was ever made, especially since quotes were being compared across multiple cities, each with different labor rates. More important, at no time during the broadcast was it revealed that AutoMD is owned by US Auto Parts, and according to its CEO during investor presentations, is using AutoMD as a lead generation platform for selling its parts. Taking the auto repair industry to task for its lack of transparency while failing to disclose its own self-serving motives is misleading.

Overall, US Auto Parts' publicity campaigns are misleading to consumers and undermine our longstanding efforts to educate the motoring public and continually improve the professionalism of the industry. They perpetuate consumer mistrust of automotive professionals, devalue the development of expertise through ongoing training and education, ignore best practices and promote a race to the bottom. US Auto Parts’ attacks put repairers in a bad light and undermine the work of honest and reputable automotive service shops.

For further information, contact:

Ron Pyle, President
Automotive Service Association
PO Box 929
Bedford TX 76095

Jackie Miller, Executive Director
Automotive Service Councils of California
One Capitol Mall, Suite 320
Sacramento CA 95814