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January 24, 2008

Auto Mechanics as Experts: Tony Molla Strikes Back


Mr. Molla is a spokesman for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

His comment on yesterday's post headlined "When Trust In An Expert Is Unwise" just came in and — in my opinion, at least (and you know how it goes around here, don't you? "My room, my rules," like when we were little) — deserves the main stage; it follows.

    Tony Molla on 'When Trust In An Expert Is Unwise'

    Since I was quoted in this piece (barely), and in the interest of full disclosure, it might be interesting to know that the author printed one comment from about a 90 minute interview, wherein I pointed out some rather significant shortfalls in this research study, not the least of which is the small sample size. He surveyed 40 automotive repair shops in one state (Connecticut). Last time I checked, there were over a quarter million repair shops in this country doing mechanical repairs alone. Projecting the results of only 40 data points across the entire nation is dubious research, at best.

    The author also chose to characterize what he did use of my input (which he requested) as "arguing," which would also seem to cast some doubt on the impartiality of this particular piece of journalism. I also find it interesting that this study was origninally intended to be an indictment of the health care industry. When that didn't work, the researcher sabotaged his older Subaru with over 150,000 miles on the odometer and embarked on a hatchet job of the repair industry. Some might consider this a classic case of finding research to fit the conclusion, rather than the other way around.

    To be fair, I have no doubt that there are good repair shops and bad repair shops out there. I do have some serious doubts that only 20 percent of the repair shops in business are honest, however. I think it's also significant that even as seemingly biased as this study was, ASE-certified technicians still did better than those with no qualifications. And to correct at least one misconception that even a cursory fact checking by the journalist would have uncovered, there have been many websites rating all kinds of businesses out there for years (my Google of "repair shop rating' returned 690,000 links). But, that said, I guess at least one truth did come out of the article — you just can't trust the experts — not even Cornell professors or NY Times journalists. Anybody else see the irony here?

January 24, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Tell us about the artist who exclusively created the USA map of state license plates.

Posted by: Nick | Jan 24, 2008 11:50:45 PM

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