The Connecticut Legislature is considering Right to Repair legislation, which would require OEMs to share diagnostic codes with independent repair shops. Two associations are on opposing sides of the Right to Repair debate: the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) testified in support of the legislation at a recent hearing, while the Automotive Service Association testified against the bill.
Aaron Lowe, AAIA vice president, government affairs, urged the state’s Joint Committee on General Law to approve the bill in order to ensure that independent shops have the ability to repair today’s computer-driven vehicle systems.
“Today, nearly every vehicle system, from air bags to tires, is controlled or monitored by on-board computers,” Lowe said. “While these computers provide important benefits in terms of safety, fuel efficiency and convenience, they also have provided the vehicle manufacturer with the ability to control who perform repairs.”
Lowe stated that Right to Repair legislation that is now under consideration in many states and Congress would require car companies “to make available, at a fair and reasonable cost, the same tools and information that they make available to their franchised dealers, thus ensuring that consumers can have a choice on where they bring their vehicle.”
Lowe disagreed with allegations made by the car companies and their dealers that testified that Right to Repair would require car companies to expose trade secrets.
“Right to Repair legislation provides extensive protection for car company trade secrets and the car companies have never been able to point to a provision in any of the current bills that has the potential to violate their intellectual property rights,” said Lowe.
Lowe also disputed claims by the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and the car companies that all of the information is available. Lowe told the committee that independent shops continue to be frustrated by the fact that, despite their extensive investments in information, tools and training, they continue to run into roadblocks when attempting to complete repairs on many vehicles and are forced to either tell the customer they need to return to the dealer or they take the car to the dealer for the customer, so as to not jeopardize the car owner’s trust in that shop.
The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) also testified at the hearing regarding the need for the legislation.
“NASTF is a one-person operation aimed at resolving a big problem,” Lowe said. “It often takes weeks or months to obtain a resolution from the manufacturer and often that resolution is a response that the information is not available or we are working to resolve that issue. A shop that has a car in one of its service bays needs to have that car repaired the same day, or at worst, the next, or will lose that business permanently. That is why the organization is rarely used by independent service facilities.”
Appearing on behalf of the association was Bob Redding, ASA’s Washington, D.C., representative. In his statement, Redding discussed ASA’s opposition to the legislation.
“ASA has been involved in the Right to Repair legislation debate for a decade at the state and federal levels,” Redding said. “Since 2002, we have seen Right to Repair bills introduced in the Congress each session. No committee in Congress has ever passed the legislation despite many hearings in multiple committees. Up to seven states each year have seen Right to Repair legislation introduced. No state has passed the Right to Repair legislation despite more than a decade of activity on this legislation.”
Redding also included comments about the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), explaining that it has served as a “mechanism to share information and resolve issues that arise in the areas of service information, tools and training.”
He highlighted that in the United States, there are approximately 500 million post-warranty repair service orders each year and that independent repair facilities repair about 75 percent of these cars. ASA noted that “the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau have both told the U.S. Congress, in public hearings, that legislation is not needed to address automotive service information issues.”
Redding closed by saying, “Right to repair legislation is not the answer to our industry’s needs. With the increased federal research dollars in clean fuel and clean engine technologies, our repair technicians will need additional, more frequent training. If you want to help our shops, put more resources in state vocational programs that encourage young people to enter our industry and equip them with the skills they need to succeed.”
In addition to Connecticut, Right to Repair bills have been introduced in Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. AAIA expects that a Right to Repair bill will be reintroduced in the current session of Congress sometime early this year.