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The battle over right to repair: More important than ever before

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 09:00
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As we begin 2018, one of the issues that seems to never go totally away is right to repair. There is good reason for this since many of the issues now at the forefront of our industry, such as access to data transmitted by embedded telematics systems, have as their root the right of car owners to obtain repairs for their vehicle from the location of their choice and not be limited to authorized dealer facilities.

Further, the right to repair battle points to an important dynamic that is occurring not only in our industry, but in many others where manufacturers are attempting to assert increased control over how their products are used and repaired. Therefore, it is important to go back and review where the right to repair came from and its current status since its repercussions are not only being felt in the automotive aftermarket in this country, but in other countries and even other industries.  

Many in our industry are no doubt familiar with the right to repair battle that our industry launched as far back as 2001, but only concluded when a law was finally enacted in Massachusetts in 2012. The car companies embarked on a major campaign to prevent passage, only to finally concede defeat when Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a right to repair ballot measure by an 86-14 percent margin as part of the 2012 elections.

Following the victory in 2012, the car companies agreed in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with Auto Care and the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE) to comply with the Massachusetts right to repair law nationwide in order to avoid a state by state battle over right to repair.

The result of this effort is that there is now a nationwide requirement that vehicle manufacturers make available to independent repairers at a fair and reasonable price, the same repair information, tools and software that they provide their dealers. This year, the right to repair law and MOU will require car companies to make all of their software, repair capabilities and information available over the cloud on a subscription basis.

Under this system, a shop should be able to download all of the repair capabilities on to a generic laptop and then connect to a vehicle using a standardized interface that either meets either SAE J2535 or ISO 22900 industry standards. If everything works as planned, a shop would be able to obtain on either a long or short-term basis, all of the same diagnostic and repair capabilities that a new car dealer receives for nearly any car that comes into their shop, without the investment of tens of thousands of dollars to purchase car company proprietary tools.

Of course, with the benefits of right to repair come some responsibilities. While having a lot of great tools at their disposal is great, shops need to ensure that their technicians are properly trained to work on late model computer controlled vehicles and know where they can obtain the tools, software and information they need to repair them. Further, if information, tools or software are not available, shops/technicians need to take the responsibility to let us know so that action can be taken to ensure compliance.

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