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Motorist Assurance Program: Overview

The Motorist Assurance Program is the consumer outreach effort of the Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association, Inc. (AMRA). Participation in the Motorist Assurance Program is drawn from retailers, suppliers, independent repair facilities, vehicle manufacturers and industry associations. 

The Motorist Assurance Program was established as an industry-wide effort to address concerns raised by regulators, the media and consumers questioning our ethics and methods of doing business. The automotive repair industry had been bombarded by months of negative stories in the media and scrutiny from state and federal regulators who focused on how the need for repairs is determined. MAP was formed as an industry response to this issue. 

Our mission is to strengthen the relationship between the consumer and the auto repair industry. We produce materials that give motorists the information and encouragement to take greater responsibility for their vehicles – through proper, manufacturer-recommended maintenance. We encourage participating service and repair shops (including franchisees and dealers) to adopt a Pledge to their Customers and the Motorist Assurance Program developed Standards of Service. All participating service providers have agreed to subscribe to this Pledge and to adhere to the promulgated Standards of Service which demonstrates to their customers that they are serious about customer satisfaction. 

These Standards of Service require than an inspection of the vehicle’s (problem) system be made according to industry guidelines. After learning that neither the car manufacturers nor any other source had complete guidelines, leading industry organizations, along with other industry participants, banded together to address this challenging task. During the past two and a half years, they successfully developed industry inspection guidelines for the following systems: Exhaust, Brakes, ABS, Steering and Suspension, Engine Maintenance and Performance, HVAC, and Electrical systems. Guidelines for Drive Train and Transmissions are currently being promulgated. Revisions to the inspection guidelines for Exhaust, Brakes/ABS and Steering and Suspension Systems, which were issued two years ago, are now being published for implementation beginning spring 1997. Participating shops utilize these Uniform Inspection Guidelines as part of the inspection process and for communicating their findings to their customers. 

The Motorist Assurance Program continues to work cooperatively and proactively with government agencies and consumer groups toward solutions that both benefit the customer and are mutually acceptable to both regulators and industry. We maintain the belief that industry must retain control over how we conduct our business, and we must be viewed as part of the solution and not part of the problem. Meetings with state and other government officials concerned with auto repair and/or consumer protection are conducted. Feedback from these representatives is brought back to members, and the program adjusted as needed. 

To assure auto repair customers recourse if they were not satisfied with a repair transaction, the Motorist Assurance Program offers arbitration through MAP/BBB-CARE in cooperation with the Council of Better Business Bureaus and individual participating Bureaus. MAP "piloted" in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh during spring, 1996 – and publicized "roll-outs" in New Jersey; Detroit, MI; Chicago; California; and Richmond, VA were conducted. To put some "teeth" in the program, an accreditation requirement for shops was initiated. The requirements are stringent, and a self-policing method has been incorporated which includes the "mystery shopping" of outlets. In addition, a committee of service providers has been working diligently developing standards for newspaper, television and Internet advertising. 

Building Consumer Trust & Confidence with MAP 

A Fact Sheet for Consumer Advocates 

Most people like to take their car in for service and repairs about as much as they like getting a root canal! Often consumers feel uncertain, overwhelmed, and distrustful when they arrive at a shop. 

The reasons consumers dislike service facilities vary. Expected poor service, confusing explanations, inconsistent diagnoses of a problem from one shop to another, differing prices, general fear and distrust arising from ignorance of what the vehicle needs - all of these problems and more can contribute to consumers' car-care wariness. 

The Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) is dedicated to helping the automotive service and repair industry cultivate consumer trust. Both the shop and the consumer will get off to a better start, MAP believes, if they share a common "road map" to the customer's car, something each could follow to help prevent misunderstandings. 

MAP participants have such a road map: the uniform inspection guidelines developed through MAP by the industry. The guidelines give the shop a customer relations/education tool to use before proceeding with any work. Service staff can review the guidelines with the consumer and give him or her a copy of the MAP required estimate, which explains in clear language what will be done to the vehicle - and why. 

MAP participants are able to stress to consumers their commitment to developing a long-term relationship based on trust and confidence. MAP helps the shop and customer work together in caring for the vehicle - now and in the future. 

Since the shop and the consumer are now following the same industry-developed "road map", the consumer can have more confidence in the technician's identification of any problems and recommended solutions. Customers will have information that will help them ask questions...and understand the answers. 

MAP facilities know how important trust is in working with the public. Participating in MAP shows that the shop respects the customer enough to communicate clearly and honestly about any work a vehicle requires, or may require in the future. 

All MAP service providers use the very same guidelines and materials. This allows a shop to assure consumers they'll get consistent service and repair recommendations, based on the uniform industry guidelines, from any MAP participant. 

MAP isn't some kind of PR ploy meant to paper over problems and get the customer to "feel good" about shops. Rather, MAP helps service center staff communicate more clearly with customers and it helps each customer become a more educated consumer of car care services. 

MAP's Pledge to Customers 

The Motorist Assurance Program is working to build honesty, ethical practices, and consistent performance within the automotive service industry, and a positive relationship between the industry and consumers. Toward those ends, MAP developed this Pledge to Customers. It's a simple set of promises to which MAP members strictly adhere: 
  • We Promise to provide written recommendations for repairs that are explained and based on system failure, improved system performance or preventive maintenance, according to accepted industry standards. 
  • We Promise to offer a written estimate, including the reason for the repair, and no work will be performed without your prior authorization. 
  • We Promise to employ personnel trained in accordance with MAP Standards of Service who are qualified to perform an inspection based on MAP Uniform Inspection Guidelines. 
  • We Promise to include a written limited warranty at no extra cost. 
  • We Promise to provide dispute resolution services at your request should you be dis-satisfied with the resolution proposed by a member facility concerning its performance in meeting the requirements of the program. The dispute will be submitted to an independent board at no cost to you. 

MAP Standards of Service 

MAP also developed standards of service for shops to follow in working with customers. Written from the point of view of, and for the use of, maintenance and repair shops, the standards expand on the ideas and promises established in MAP's Pledge to Customers: 

I. Our recommendations are based upon the following definitions. 

  • System Failure - Parts/system indicated are out of manufacturers' specifications, have failed or are unable to perform their normal function as intended or designed by the manufacturers. Service/replacement is required. 
  • Preventive/Scheduled Maintenance - Parts/system are scheduled for service/ replacement per industry standards or are near the end of their useful life and repair/ replacement is recommended in advance of parts/system failure. Service/replacement is suggested. 
  • Improved System Performance - Parts/ system indicated are recommended for repair/ replacement to enhance/improve the vehicle's ability to perform as intended or designed by the manufacturer, or as requested by the customer. Service/replacement is suggested. 
II. Training/Criteria 

Our personnel have acquired auto repair expertise through formal education or work experience. Where appropriate, personnel are moving toward certification (e.g. vehicle manufacturer, ASE, etc.) for the services performed. Continuing education will be supported by all MAP participants. 

III. Appropriate Company Approved Inspection 

We will perform an appropriate inspection based on MAP Uniform Inspection Guidelines. 

IV. Written Estimates 

Written estimates based on our inspection, in compliance with state and local regulations, will include parts (dollar amount), labor (dollar amount), and the total estimate. 

V. Work Authorization 

No work will be performed without the customer's prior approval. 

VI. Limited Warranty 

A minimum limited warranty will be offered of 90 days or 4,000 miles, whichever comes first, covering parts and labor. 

VII. Returned Parts 

All customers will be entitled to the return of old parts, or if they choose, they may examine the parts prior to leaving the store. Where failed parts are required to be returned to the manufacturer in order to honor the warranty, the customer will be allowed to examine the parts. 

VIII. Classification of Parts 

Replaced parts will be identified as new, remanufactured, rebuilt or used. MAP participants will inform the customer and indicate on the estimate and invoice whether a part is new, remanufactured, rebuilt or used. 

More About MAP 

Formed in June, 1992 by a group of service providers, manufacturers, associations and others who were concerned about the reputation of the automotive repair industry, MAP works to improve communication and trust between the industry and its customers. MAP's purpose is to strengthen the relationship between the motorist and the automotive service and repair industry through education of both the motorist and service pro-vider, and through the creation of industry standards. 

MAP has established relationships with many consumer groups and regulatory agencies, includ-ing the American Association of Retired Persons; American Automobile Association; Canadian Automotive Repair and Service Council; Car Care Council; Consumer Information Center; Council of Better Business Bureaus; members of the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, and National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. 

MAP keeps its participants and other inter-ested audiences informed through its newsletter, Directions, publishes a consumer brochure enti-tled How to Find Your Way Under the Hood and Around your Car, and distributes copies of its Uniform Inspection Guidelines for automotive systems. 

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