Industry Opposes Mass "Right To Repair" Legislation Over Chinese Piracy Fears

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
industry opposes mass right to repair legislation over chinese piracy fears

Legislation aimed at improving the transparency of Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) has passed the Massachusetts state House of Representatives, and awaits approval by the Senate. If approved, Bill 2517 [full text in PDF format here] would require that

The manufacturer of a motor vehicle sold in the commonwealth shall make available for purchase to independent motor vehicle repair facilities and motor vehicle owners in a non­discriminatory basis and cost as compared to the terms and costs charged to an authorized dealer or authorized motor vehicle repair facility all diagnostic, service and repair information that the manufacturer makes available to its authorized dealers and authorized motor vehicle repair facilities in the same form and the same manner as it is made available to authorized dealers or an authorized motor vehicle repair facility of the motor vehicle.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is opposing the bill, according to the DetN, because it believes the bill is motivated by parts manufacturers who want access to parts in order to reverse engineer and sell them. Literally. And yes, it is China’s fault.

The AAM’s spokesman Charles Territo tells the DetN that

The passage of this legislation would set a dangerous precedent that could have a devastating impact on our economy. It would result in manufacturing jobs going overseas to places like China where the production of knock-off auto parts is big business

Even certain independent mechanics are on-board with the industry’s opposition to Right To Repair. Roger Montbleau of The New England Service Station & Automotive Repair Association tells the DetN

It has become clear that this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This bill will supposedly give independent repair businesses access to repair information and tools that car dealerships have at a similar price. Well, repairers can already do that

What independent shops don’t have access to is the software and TSB data that proponents say they need to ensure the safety of their customers’ vehicles. Moreover, proponents argue that a level playing field improves competition between dealers and smaller service shops, bringing the price down for consumers across the board. And as one small service station owner puts it

We don’t need to know how they build their vehicles, just how to repair them

That Territo picked the recent indictment of two alleged technology spies of Chinese extraction, accused of trying to sell GM hybrid technology secrets to the Chinese automaker Chery, is as telling as Growth Energy’s use of the BP oil spill to hype ethanol. Cheap symbolism comes and goes, but the simple fact is that repairing automobiles has become more and more difficult with time. And the companies that manufacture automobiles have every incentive to try to force consumers to use their “official” dealer network for maintenance. If manufacturers care as much about safety as they claim to in the post-Toyota recall environment, they should be happy to make sure that their customers are safe whether they choose to use dealer service or not.

With new legislation coming that should require mandatory black-box standards and other transparency measures, the automakers should consider the public relations benefit that could come from breaking ranks and coming out in favor of Right To Repair. After all, the public responds far better to cheap symbolism done in the name of popular transparency than in the name of protecting obscure (and in the case of the recent GM conviction, barely marketable) technology patents.

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  • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Jul 27, 2010

    The China angle is a red herring. Most of the parts are manufactured in China anyway. All a Chinese factory needs to reverse engineer a part is a sample of the part. This is about repair information, diagnostic codes etc. This has nothing at all to do with reverse engineering. In Europe, this information has to be provided to anybody who wants it since 2003 - and there we thought we were behind the U.S. Apparently, we were not. The repair business is a big moneymaker for both the dealership and the factory (overpriced original parts). Withholding repair information turns your into a hostage of the dealership, and they can extort any ransom payment they want. If I would tell you the marke-ups on some parts, you would vomit.

    • EEGeek EEGeek on Jul 27, 2010

      Exactly. I know VW has some procedures that require an encrypted connection between the dealer's diagnostic computer and a central server tucked away in Wolfsburg or New Jersey or Timbuktu. Only authorized dealers can get access. VCDS is a cool aftermarket tool, but it can't do that. The OEMs and dealers like it that way, for obviou$ rea$son$...

  • Contrarian Contrarian on Jul 27, 2010

    How absurd. An an electrical engineer at a Tier-1 automotive supplier in the early 1990s, I was appalled that we were directed to give our very latest microcontroller designs to GM in China to do copies of our latest North American designs. Give me a break, OEMs. You lie!

  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !