Executive Spotlight – Bureau Chief Patrick Dorais
Patrick Dorais was appointed to serve as chief of the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in November 2013. Prior to his appointment, he served as deputy chief of Smog Check operations from 2007 to 2013 and in a variety of roles from 1995 to 2004.
As BAR celebrates its 50th anniversary, we sat down with Chief Dorais to get his perspective on past accomplishments and his vision for BAR’s future.
What are some of the accomplishments during your time as chief that have advanced BAR’s mission?
BAR has had numerous accomplishments over the last decade that protect the public and advance our mission. Some of the notable accomplishments include:
Smog Check Enhancements – In 2013, BAR restructured the Smog Check Program to include three new license types, improved inspection standards, and implemented the STAR program. The program certifies high-performing Smog Check stations to better protect consumers and help the state meet required emissions reductions.
Mobile Automotive Repairs – In 2017, BAR adopted regulations to help consumers easily identify and verify the license of a mobile automotive repair business prior to enlisting its services. Mobile repair businesses are required to include identifying information in all forms of advertisements, both online and on their business vehicle(s).
Electronic Estimates and Authorizations – In 2018, BAR adopted regulations allowing electronic estimates and authorizations for automotive repair transactions conveniently by text message or other electronic communication.
Auto Training Opportunities – In 2019, BAR implemented the Cars for Schools program to provide hands-on auto training opportunities to students. Vehicles slated for retirement are donated to public high schools, community colleges, and regional occupation programs throughout the state. BAR also supports workforce recruitment and actively promotes scholarship opportunities for students and professionals.
Licensure Resources and Assistance – BAR implemented various expedited licensure resources and assistance options benefiting members of the military and their families, refugees, asylees, and holders of special immigrant visas.
Vehicle Safety Recall Awareness – BAR partnered with CARFAX and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to incorporate vehicle safety recall information into the Smog Check Program in April 2020. Consumers are notified when their vehicle has open recalls at the time of inspection, and recall details are printed on the vehicle inspection report provided to consumers after each Smog Check. BAR also partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 13 vehicle manufacturers to mail letters to nearly 1.3 million vehicle owners in California affected by Takata air bag recalls. The number of air bag recall repairs in California increased by 64% in 2020.
Smog Check Assistance – In 2020, BAR increased the state’s contribution towards emission repairs under the Consumer Assistance Program from a maximum of $500 to $1,200 for eligible consumers.
Auto Shop Locator – The Auto Shop Locator, launched in 2020, is a mobile-friendly web application that allows consumers to perform location-based searches of licensed automotive repair shops. Consumers can filter their search results by the type of services needed, including Smog Checks and brake and lamp inspections, and categories of automotive repair, such as auto body and transmission repairs. The locator also clearly identifies licensees that are on probation or the subject of a pending disciplinary action by BAR.
How do you see BAR adapting to changes in the industry?
BAR works tirelessly to develop and improve programs vital to the protection of consumers and the environment, and to strengthen regulatory functions to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace. Not only will we continue to collaborate with trade associations and industry leaders to affect meaningful change, we will continue to innovate and adapt our programs, services, and regulatory oversight in tandem with increasingly sophisticated automotive technology to best protect consumers and support industry business operations.
You have seen management come and go at BAR, but the commitment to consumers has never wavered. What do you attribute that to?
Through the dedication and innovation of staff working to improve programs and processes, and by recognizing that every single employee plays a role in meeting our commitment to consumers, we are able to sustain our mission of consumer protection as the highest priority.
50 years of BAR service is quite an achievement! Where do you see the industry in the next 10 years and what do you see as some of the upcoming issues or challenges facing BAR?
As the automotive industry continues to evolve, we must set aggressive goals to ensure vehicle safety, protect consumers from unethical business practices, and maintain a fair marketplace. With the proliferation of on-demand mobile services, BAR must be vigilant in protecting consumers from unlicensed auto repair dealers that may operate outside of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.
Keeping abreast of technological advancements requires ongoing regulation development to address the repair of new vehicle technologies and to advance technician training. BAR recognizes the increasing demand for automotive technicians and the need to attract and retain qualified technicians. BAR is committed to informing those interested in training and licensure and supporting initiatives that foster the development of a skilled automotive tech workforce.
Continuing our efforts to modernize our information technology systems not only ensures more efficient and effective operations for the organization, it also allows BAR to more easily interface with consumers.
Lastly, to address California’s air quality challenges, we must continue to innovate and harness all available resources to ensure significant environmental benefits.
Where do you see BAR and the automotive industry headed as the push is on for consumers to go green and purchase electric vehicles?
We can anticipate the number of vehicles on the road to continue to grow. Traditional fuel vehicles will be around for a long time, along with their environmental impact, so the Smog Check Program will continue to play a vital role in reducing vehicle emissions. With new EV technology comes the need for regulatory oversight, environmental impact assessment, vehicle safety compliance, and supportive infrastructure. BAR will need to be flexible and innovative in order to adapt to the changing inventory of vehicles in California.
What have been some of the things that have motivated you during your tenure at BAR?
I chose public service because I am motivated to bring innovation to government procedures, to continually improve business operations, and, most importantly, to facilitate positive, large-scale change that benefits all Californians. And daily I am inspired by the dedicated staff that are committed to making a difference and are motivated to help BAR succeed.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to thank the dedicated employees and many internal and external stakeholders who make the work of BAR possible. While we celebrate 50 years of accomplishments, we must never lose sight of our commitment to continually evolve to meet future challenges and opportunities.
Watch a video message from Chief Dorais.