One of the automotive aftermarket's biggest victories in recent memory came back in November when the voters of Massachusetts voted in favor of Right to Repair legislation that would provide independent auto shops access to telematic data that OEMs had a stranglehold over.
However, the process hasn’t been easy since then. Automakers promptly filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seeking to invalidate the referendum. Currently tied up in court, a decision is expected in the coming months. In addition, automakers and dealers are now trying to introduce legislation in the Massachusetts House that would delay the implementation of the Right to Repair Referendum for up to five years.
In response, the presidents of the Auto Care Association, the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association and the executive director of the Equipment and Tool Institute released a joint statement updating the industry on their efforts to create an equitable situation for independent shops and automakers alike.
Ratchet+Wrench, a sister publication of Auto Service Professional with 10 Missions Media, spoke with the leaders about their statement and other goals for the industry moving forward.
Hoping for unity with automakers.
Despite automakers' continued fight to keep information out of the hands of independent shops, all three leaders spoke of their insistence and the continued importance of finding cooperation between automakers.
“This is about consumers, protecting consumer repair choice, and ensuring a competitive market for vehicle service that has served consumers and our industry so well for over a century,” AASA president and COO Paul McCarthy said. “We need a cross-industry solution that will ensure cybersecurity, protect resale and brand value while enabling consumers to affordably maintain safe operation of their vehicles. We have come together to create a safe and secure solution that enables consumer choice and all ecosystem players a seat at the table.”
Without cooperation from the automakers, the process will be frustrating. While legislation could force the information to be shared, unity between the two parties remains a top priority. The ideal outcome for the trade associations is one in which automakers and independent shops can work together. However, continued push back from automakers won’t stop them from pushing for change through legislation.
Adding Right To Repair to Biden’s infrastructure bill.
The trade associations aren’t waiting for a decision to come down in the Massachusetts lawsuit, which has stalled much of the national discourse, to further its mission.
With several contacts in Congress, the hope is that Right to Repair legislation could be added to the current infrastructure and transportation bill since it will already be covering a wide array of subjects within the automotive space. Adding Right to Repair legislation onto an already existing bill, rather than as its own standalone bill, is of interest to the groups. This would provide sweeping national legislation, the much-preferred route, rather than fighting the battle in every state.
It would also be the fastest route, an important note as newer vehicles with increased telematics and automaker-specific software continue to fall out of warranty and enter independent shops. ACA president Bill Hanvey pointed out that while this may not be a big issue for shops at the moment, it is increasingly going to be an issue.
Even with the automakers fighting the Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts, McCarthy, Hanvey and ETI executive director Brian Plott see increased momentum for national legislation.
“The fact that Massachusetts consumers have overwhelmingly supported Right to Repair initiatives twice speaks volumes,” Hanvey said. “It’s also helpful as other initiatives outside of the automotive industry (such as technology and agriculture) continue to gain ground, as their victories and awareness help support our cause.”
Seventy-five percent of Massachusetts voters voted in favor of Right to Repair legislation. That amount of public support has left them confident in the viability of national legislation.
How can shops contribute?
McCarthy encourages shops to visit all of the trade organizations’ webpages to stay up to date on the latest news. He also recommends making sure all shop employees are educated on the topic and make the cause “part of their shop DNA.” That’s the first step. Then, make your voice heard.
Get engaged and get in touch with your congresspeople, McCarthy said. “Invite them to your place of business to show them that you pay taxes and employ a skilled workforce of technicians and to teach them about the issues affecting you. The voice that is loudest and most clear to legislators are the taxpayers and owners in their districts, so use that power as a call to action.”
Plott also recommends coming to AAPEX to get training on all the latest maintenance and repair technology. That will help keep the business viable until more holistic reform is enacted through legislation.