[This editorial was sent to us by Charley Territo from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.] For the past eight years, a group that represents aftermarket parts suppliers has lobbied in Congress and state houses across the country for legislation that would give them free access to the intellectual property of automakers. Automakers spend more on research and development than any other industry. The proponents of this legislation can’t keep up. Their hope is that passage of Right to Repair would cut down on the costs and time needed to develop aftermarket parts to compete with OEMs. In practice, this legislation would do nothing to address the problems the CARE coalition says exist. It is a solution in search of a problem.
Ironically, ALLDATA, one of the largest of these third party providers of service and repair information, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AutoZone, which is a major funder of the coalition in support of so-called Right to Repair legislation. Either the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association is misstating a public policy position or ALLDATA is misrepresenting the nature of its product.
The information necessary to service and repair motor vehicles is widely available to all segments of the nation’s service and repair industry. In 2002, automobile manufacturers and the Automotive Service Association signed a broad industry agreement to ensure the general availability of service information, tools, and training. This industry agreement utilizes the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), a broadly representative voluntary organization designed to resolve any availability concerns that may arise.
In 2007, NASTF reviewed a mere 48 service information requests out of more than 500 million automotive service and repair events. Of those 48 requests—some of which were duplicates—all but one was resolved readily by the vehicle manufacturers involved. We believe NASTF has and will continue to serve as an important organization for the service and repair industry.
Congressional support for the so-called “Right to Repair Act” has diminished as this voluntary agreement has been implemented. A few weeks ago, the legislation was re-introduced with just two cosponsors, down from 177 just a few years ago. Furthermore, in 2007 the Federal Trade Commission reported to Congress that it had received no complaints from independent repairers or anyone else about this issue. Unfortunately that hasn’t stopped the CARE coalition from continuing to scour the country looking for a sympathetic legislature to intervene on their behalf.
Today’s automotive engineers are using computers in innovative ways to produce even safer and cleaner vehicles. And while automotive computers monitor and control everything from airbag safety systems and anti-lock brakes to GPS systems, fuel economy and emissions controls, they also require independent repairers to invest in the tools, training and equipment necessary to properly service theses automobiles.
For many independent repairers, the current economic crisis has been a boon to their businesses. Consumers are holding on to the vehicles longer and choosing to make repairs rather than purchase new autos. Manufacturers are committed to providing independent repairers with the information they need to repair automobiles. In fact, more than 75 percent of post-warranty repairs are performed by non-dealer shops.
Right to repair is a parts bill masquerading as a repair bill. Let’s hope legislators around the country continue to see through the disguise.