The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the Association of Global Automakers (AGA) say they are taking on "Right to Repair" proponents’ claims that factory tools and service information are unavailable at no cost to independent repairers and do-it-yourselfers by launching "Equal Access," which the groups say is a "comprehensive resource guide for the automotive repair community."
AAM and AGA say that Equal Access provides repairers with a comprehensive listing of how to access all diagnostic and service information, factory scan tools and training information for all car makes and models. The guide will be distributed to independent auto repairers, legislators and the media and is available online at www.repairshopequalaccess.org.
"All independent repair shops have the same affordable access as dealers to up-to-date repair information and factory tools, as this report documents," said Dan Gage, spokesperson for AAM. "There are many ways to obtain tools and service resources, and automakers provide this information directly to dealers, independent repairers, and vehicle owners as well as to third-party tool makers and service information websites for use in their own products. Claims that automakers are purposefully withholding these resources from the aftermarket community just don’t ring true."
In response to this announcement, the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition said the automakers’ report is a "blueprint for the systematic destruction of the independent repair industry and further reduction of consumer choice." The coalition claims that the OEMs’ scan tools are too varied and expensive for independent repairers to afford.
“Car companies want to make information available only on their terms, which is not in the best interest of consumers or independent repair shops,” said Art Kinsman of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition. “Big manufacturers want to keep the system complicated and expensive for non-dealers. We seek to simplify the system which will result in a level playing field for repairers and savings for consumers.”
AAM and AGA, however, say that as technology becomes more complicated on today’s vehicles, repairers must adapt and invest in the proper tools and resources to service and repair vehicles accurately, and the groups maintain that automakers are "deeply invested" in ensuring all repairers have access to the information and technology needed for proper repairs.
"While dealerships perform most repairs while a vehicle is under warranty, consumers today take 75 percent of their post-warranty repairs to independent shops," said Annemarie Pender, spokeswoman for the AGA. "Automakers can require dealers to be ‘service ready’ through their terms of their sales and service agreements. For the aftermarket community, automakers can only provide independent technicians with affordable and equal access to the same tools and service information that dealers have and encourage investment in them."
The debate is especially hot in Massachusetts: the coalition gathered over 106,000 signatures to place a Right to Repair initiative on the state’s November 2012 ballot. The ballot question would grant independent shops access to IEM diagnostic and repair software using a generic laptop that would be connected into a vehicle’s onboard computer, using a universal interface system.
Counter to the Right to Repair group’s efforts, the New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association (NESSARA) says it has been working with AAM and AGA to develop ongoing awareness initiatives designed to assist the aftermarket community in identifying and accessing OEM repair resources.
The Right to Repair Coalition maintains that the informational campaign does not alleviate the burden placed on independent repairers to purchase specialized tools and software.
“Their plan cleverly omits the fact that it would cost each corner garage an estimated $209,000, not including costly training and software updates, to purchase manufacturer scan tools to service each and every vehicle make and model,” said Kinsman.