Colin Fritz, manager of AMA's roadside assistance partner network (photo: Paul Swanson)

Q&A: Colin Fritz Oversees AARS Partners

By Paul Gallant

As manager of AMA’s roadside assistance partner network, Colin Fritz and his team determine which auto shops meet AMA’s high standards and get the nod to serve members. To date, the team has approved more than 300 repair shops, lube facilities and glass facilities to form AMA’s network of Approved Auto Repair Service (AARS) partners. But Fritz is looking for more than just great mechanics.

Are you a car guy?
For me, the allure isn’t the automobile itself: It’s knowing a car will work when someone turns the key. My passion is helping people. What I appreciate about our partners is that they are car people who work hard to ensure customers are confident in the work that’s being done.

What’s the most valuable skill for your job?
If I can build a great relationship with our partners, they’re going to provide the best possible service to our members. It sounds a bit hokey, but we’re all about a family mentality.

What do you look for in auto service providers?
Part of my job is meeting with all of our garages, so I’m on the road a lot. I consider their reputation with customers and even the look and feel of their place: Would my wife be comfortable here? Is it clean? (Sometimes a big tell is the washroom.) Do they educate the customer, taking time to instil confidence? I also reflect on the interactions I have with staff and management. It goes far beyond just fixing a car really well.

And if a member has concerns about the service?
AARS facilities provide Canada-wide, one-year, 20,000-kilometre warranties—far beyond current industry standards. But if a member has a concern, AMA can act as a third-party arbitrator to issue binding resolution. We want to give members peace of mind—the shop may be independent, but it’s backed by this large organization.

Although you’ve been with AMA for a decade, you’re originally from B.C. What do you love most about Alberta?
I love that the geography is so diverse. Sure, there’s lots of flat land, but when you see Crowsnest Pass, with its stunning mountains, you feel like you’re in Europe. Then you hit beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park, which I think is one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets.

What makes Waterton unique, from an AMA perspective?
We have a partner there—and it’s the only gas station in that park. They provide roadside assistance for AMA on bicycles. Their bike trailer contains an unlocking kit, booster pack and tire wrenches. They get weird looks sometimes, but people will tell them, “I don’t care what you rolled up on. Just change the tire.” I think that’s awesome.

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Winter tires: Use winter tires during the cold season for top traction on slushy or icy roads. They’re made from a rubber compound designed to stay flexible and maneuverable starting at 7 C. They feature deep tread blocks that bite ice and snow, pushing them away for superior traction.

All weather: While they don’t have as much traction as winter tires, all weathers can be used in winter on city or suburban streets.