‘Right to Repair’ Battle Heats Up

Automakers are fighting hard to stop a bill that would force them to disclose all diagnostic, service and repair software they provide to their dealerships. The “Right to Repair” bill is waiting for a vote in the Massachusetts state House after passing in the state Senate on July 6th.

Since 2001, a number of other states as well as the U.S. Congress have tried to pass similar legislation and failed. If it passes, the Massachusetts bill will be the first of its kind. Supporters and opponents include many diverse groups, including repair shops, dealerships, unions, auto parts manufacturers and automakers. Both sides are spending massively to lobby and advertise their positions ahead of the vote.

Supporters of “Right to Repair” claim that the legislation lowers repair costs and allows independent repair shops to compete fairly with dealerships. The opposition, mainly automakers, says that all the bill does is make it possible for cheap replacement parts to be made, which will cost dealers and automakers money in the long run.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade group representing Toyota Motor Corporation, Detroit’s Big Three, and seven other automakers. The group along with the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, which represents a number of foreign carmakers, opposes the bill. Both groups say that the only reason for the new bill is to enable parts companies to gain access to confidential information which would allow them to make cheaper versions of the original equipment.

Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, “Our unlikely coalition of law enforcement organizations, Massachusetts business groups, labor unions, auto dealers, automakers and, most importantly, independent repairers recognizes that consumers already have the right to have their vehicle serviced by the repairer of their choice. This legislation is, was and will always be about parts, not repair.”

Proponents of the bill claim that all repair shops should have access to the software, and that they will pay for it in order to lower prices for car owners.

The Massachusetts Right to Repair group, which represents over 1,000 mechanics, states, “Motor vehicles are now equipped with sophisticated and complex computerized monitoring and diagnostic systems, and complete and accurate diagnostic, service and repair information needs to be available to vehicle owners and all motor vehicle service industry sectors in order to properly, safely and affordably diagnose problems with, maintain and repair vehicles.”

Executive VP of the Service Station Dealers of America, Paul Fiore, says, “It is absolutely critical that an enforceable Right to Repair bill be enacted. They are not seeking an unfair advantage, nor are they looking for access to the proprietary information protected by the bill.” He also believes that sharing information regarding safety and repair does not constitute a proprietary information risk to the automakers. “We don’t need to know how they build their vehicles,” says Fiore, “just how to repair them.”

Opponents of “Right to Repair” include law enforcement groups who claim that availability of the information could lead to increased car theft. The Massachusetts Police Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau are both against the legislation. The bureau states that “the release of this information would allow persons a considerable advantage when stealing not only Massachusetts vehicles but any vehicle utilizing this technology.”

Automakers argue that once the legislation is passed in Massachusetts, the information will spread far beyond state borders.

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