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Canadians choose safety over reliability when it comes to car repairs

For work, family, trips or pleasure – our vehicles are extensions and reflections of our day-to-day lives.

We depend on them in a myriad of ways, and those needs are as varied as the vehicles we drive. They service us, but we aren't servicing them.

Canadians from coast-to-coast have said they believe service and maintenance are integral to having a reliable and dependable vehicle and that safety comes first. They want to know that when they climb in, shut the door, start the engine and head down the highway, their chosen ride is roadworthy. Since the average vehicle in Canada is 9.3 years old, it would make sense that continuing maintenance and repairs would form part of the typical household budget.

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But the one place we aren't driving our vehicles to regularly is the shop.

Manufacturers build and design vehicles with scheduled maintenance requirements and customers aren't complying. In the DesRosiers 2013 Canadian Automotive Aftermarket Demand Study, which examined Canadian spending habits around service and repair, market research results showed the average Canadian is underspending on vehicle maintenance and repair by $623 a year.

This under-investment comes despite the fact Canadians clearly identified a dependable and safe vehicle as an issue of high importance – the 2012 DesRosiers Light Vehicle Study found that 85.6 per cent of Canadian car owners consider regular vehicle servicing to be a priority.

In an effort to clarify this dichotomy, the CAA and the Automotive Industries Association of Canada recently partnered to run a series of focus groups in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver over the month of July, with a complete report to be finalized this summer. The preliminary findings are enlightening.

The eight focus groups, with eight attendees each, provided some strong take-away messages. Participants identified safety as a central factor when considering repairs and maintenance. Reliability and dependability ranked second to safety.

When faced with a range of possible repairs and maintenance, if the safety of the vehicle is impacted then the work takes precedence. Reliability and dependability overlap with safety – early analysis of the focus group results reveal that as drivers we want to know our vehicles will start, get us where we need to be and provide peace of mind.

And there we have it – as drivers we want our vehicles to be there for us but we generally only pay for service and repairs when we feel they aren't safe or dependable to drive.

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Marc Brazeau is president and CEO of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada.

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