AASA Supports National Right to Repair Law to Protect Data

Dec. 2, 2020

The leaders of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association are supporting federal legislation that would replicate the win provided by voters in Massachusetts in last month’s ballot issue addressing vehicle data.

Since the Nov. 3 ballot question in Massachusetts, automakers have taken their objections to court in an effort to impede the bill, which was approved with almost 75% of the vote.

Paul McCarthy, president and chief operating officer of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, says whatever the outcome of the court challenge, it’s important to pass a federal repair act that would protect consumers’ and the aftermarket’s access to vehicle data.

“A bill provides a long-term national solution,” McCarthy says. 

Ann Wilson, the head of AASA’s government advocacy efforts, says taking the issue national also preserves resources.

“The amount of manpower it takes to do that (state by state) is significant,” Wilson says.

The organization has also been approached by members of Congress who are concerned about what they’ve been hearing since the Massachusetts issue was approved, and lawmakers see an opportunity with the passing of the next Transportation Reauthorization Bill (highway bill.)

“This will move quickly. The industry needs to get behind this. We need to make sure everybody understands (the risks.)”

The Boston Globe reported the fight to expand Massachusetts’ Right to Repair law was the most expensive ballot initiative in the state’s history.

Outlook for 2021

During a media call on Dec. 1, McCarthy talked about some of the positive signs for the aftermarket as a whole. The fact that the industry was labeled essential was crucial, and will continue to be important in the coming months.

Parts stores: The largest auto parts stores are all reporting sales at above than 2019 levels. As of Nov. 29, AASA says AutoZone’s sales are up by 21.8%.

Demand for products: In a third-quarter survey by AASA, its supplier members in the aftermarket said demand for their products is up 8.2% compared to the same period in 2019. (It was the first quarter of this year members reported a positive demand.)

Car projects continue: With spending in so many other categories limited, and traffic and lockdowns still a reality in many regions, the aftermarket continues to be a place where consumers can spend money.

The “ultimate PPE”: McCarthy called cars “the ultimate PPE,” and says he doesn’t expect commuting to resume to pre-pandemic levels. And as more workers are freed to work from home, many are choosing to do some from more remote locations that require personal vehicles. The overall size of the car parc, estimated at 276 million units in 2020, is expected to grow steadily to 281.1 million by 2025.

Age of vehicles: Owners are expected to continue to hold onto their vehicles, and by 2022 the average age of a vehicle will be 12.2 years old. (AASA used IHS Markit data.)

Miles driven: In this much-watched piece of data, AASA says the outlook “may be better than appreciated.” In 2019, pre-COVID-19, miles driven reached a record 3.3 trillion miles. 2020 could be down 14% from that mark -- and that's a figure that is much better than estimates earlier in the year.

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Auto Service Professional as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.