The Right to Repair?

stan ribeiro newsletter The “Right to Repair” is sweeping the nation. Recently, Massachusetts proposed a law that requires vehicle manufacturers to provide their diagnostic and repair information. This information will be available to vehicle owners and aftermarket repair facilities (not affiliated with the manufacturer) for purchase.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I support the fact we keep 0.5%* of the Massachusetts population working in the aftermarket industries. However, that’s not what’s at stake here. This 6.1 billion dollar* market is operating with all the technology the manufacturers have available. So why force laws that could ultimately increase the cost to the manufacturers and dealerships? This “Right to Repair” act is “currently being considered across the country.”*

The proposed law stipulates that all new vehicles starting with the 2015 model year would be subject to this proposal but can affect purchases after January 1, 2013.

I don’t get it. Currently the diagnostic information and repair information is available to anyone via bulletins, blogs, chats, publications and repair manuals. Let’s face it, with access to the internet we can get whatever information we want at any time.

The writers of the proposal have included a clause that would prohibit the manufacturers from sharing any “Immobilization” data or “Trade Secrets.” With all the other schematics and module structures being presented, isn’t that just a moot point?

Where does it stop?!

  • Will Kentucky Fried Chicken be forced to provide their recipe to anybody to make their chicken?
  • Will Coca Cola be forced to divulge their formula?
  • Will professional sports teams be forced to reveal their play strategies?
  • Will the CIA be forced to reveal any “person of interest?”

Competition is the foundation of our entrepreneurial spirit. How does sharing enhance competition? It doesn’t.

Let’s question the perceptions as they are presented by the Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee:

  • “A yes vote would make it more convenient and less expensive for car owners.”**
    • The dealerships have been fighting that perception for decades. Fact is, the dealer body employs factory trained technicians using specialized tools designed by the manufacturers’ engineers, plus a highly skilled support staff to service customers while staying competitive demographically. Usually they utilize a survey similar to gas stations to set their rate within the market. However, dealerships also use both factory and aftermarket facilities to determine their market. So who really sets the market? It has been suggested that this proposal would alter how repair data is provided and perhaps mandate a redesign of all motor vehicles. This sounds like digression instead of progression.
  • “AAA urges a yes vote…they believe it is only fair that when you buy a car you have the access to all information needed to fix it.” “Where you want”.**
    • Information is already available; The 6.1 billion dollar* aftermarket business appears to be doing well and has created choices for the consumer.
    • Law enforcement opposes the proposal* due to the possibility of increased safety threats, including theft.

The proposed law has not clearly defined what the actual savings would be to the consumers. Where is the savings when the aftermarket repair facilities have to purchase information and specialized equipment? The consumer already has the freedom to diagnose and repair their vehicle anywhere they choose.

Let me make this point clear, other professional businesses have specialists that are used for specific diagnosis and treatment. What makes our industry any different? Above and beyond the scope of basic diagnostics and the repair process, it is comforting to know that when needed, we are the specialists.

Perhaps, dealerships will see a higher volume of business due to lack of experience and interpretation of the shared information.

We shall see.

Although an overwhelming “Yes” vote was counted at election, the manufacturers and the State of Massachusetts came to an agreement previously.

*information gathered from www.righttorepair.org web site.

**information gathered from the 2012 Massachusetts Information for Voters 2012 Ballot Questions published by William Francis Galvin (Secretary of the Commonwealth).

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