Massachusetts Passes Right-To-Repair Protections

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
massachusetts passes right to repair protections

Independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers have been pitted against major automakers and their dealer networks in Massachusetts for years. The state has served as the primary battleground for right-to-repair legislation that would permit/prohibit customers and independent entities from working on or modifying vehicles. However, a major victory came on Tuesday after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure updating existing right-to-repair laws to give vehicle owners and small shops better access to vehicle data typically reserved for industry giants.

The resulting decision gives consumers substantially more control over what’s done with the data being harvested by the industry (often without their knowledge) and frees up their options on who to go to when their vehicle needs fixing.

Full disclosure: this is one of those topics where I fall so hard on one side of this issue that I have to admit to my bias upfront to avoid looking like I’m acting in bad faith. I staunchly support right-to-repair laws in all forms and find the industry opposition to them reprehensible. Owners should absolutely have access to the data their vehicles generate and independent repair shops should have access to the tools used by branded service centers.

With that out of the way, it’s at least fairly obvious why industry players want to discourage the right-to-repair movement. They want the impunity to harvest driving data without someone looking over their shoulder and nullify the scant amount of competition that comes from do-it-yourself types and independent garages.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (which represents practically every car manufacturer currently selling in the U.S.) has repeatedly stressed the importance of modernizing vehicles with “mobility” features, like data acquisition. But it hasn’t been too keen on sharing said data with customers. It has claimed that the accumulated info could be dangerous and open consumers up to privacy/security concerns. While this begs the question of why they’re harvesting on-road data if it’s so freaking dangerous, only the most naive person would come to any answer other than it making them money.

Of course, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) can blame businesses for being greedy too. It’s has been claiming aftermarket retailers and small shops just want the data for themselves. While technically true, some amount of data procurement is required just to work on modern vehicles and it’s not like anybody truly believes one business entity is going to act more responsibly with consumer info than another.

John Bozzella, CEO of AAI has also said government regulators have shared concerns about security — referencing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specifically, according to Automotive News. He claimed the NHTSA shared concerns about some of the language used in the ballot measure.

“Automakers have made available all the diagnostic and repair information that is needed to service a vehicle safely and securely. That consumer choice will not change,” he said. “Moving forward, automakers will continue their work to protect our customers and prioritize their safety, privacy and vehicle security.”

From AN:

The updated law expands access to mechanical data related to vehicle maintenance and repair by requiring automakers to make available all mechanical information needed to diagnose and repair vehicles as well as perform routine maintenance starting with 2022 models. It also gives vehicle owners and independent repair shops access to real-time mechanical data from telematics — systems that collect and wirelessly transmit information such as crash notifications, remote diagnostics and navigation from the vehicle to a remote server.

Meanwhile, right-to-repair supporters (including the Auto Care Association and retailers like O’Reilly Auto Parts) have claimed the passed initiative closes a loophole in the current law that exempts data transmitted wirelessly through telematics system from being shared and will ultimately give vehicle owners more choice and control over how their data is used.

The ballot passed with 75 percent of voters in Massachusetts supporting. Right-to-repair advocates have called it an important victory and feel the state should continue setting a national example.

[Image: CAT SCAPE/Shutterstock]

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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Nov 05, 2020

    And THAT is how good government is supposed to work. I (no surprise) vehemently oppose blocks on access to anything I bought. I can understand the "seal" on modules and the like for the warranty period. If I open something up and break it, that should not be on the manufacturer. But, after that period I should have access and not have to be dependent on a dealer to reset a dash light. ...nullify the scant amount of competition that comes from do-it-yourself types and independent garages... DIY is not a big number for sure, but independents has to be a big number for vehicles that are out of warranty. I do know some who stay with dealer service - and some dealers are pretty competitive with basic services - but many choose to service their vehicles elsewhere after that three or four years.

    • 2manycars 2manycars on Nov 05, 2020

      There is no such thing as "good government". It's much like saying "good criminal gang". The best you'll ever get from that lot is tolerable and it's a short quick ride downhill from there. The only thing government has consistently been good at is killing people en masse. I stick with cars old enough that there is no data problem to deal with in the first place.

  • Daniel J Daniel J on Nov 05, 2020

    I find this stuff interesting. Most people I know defend apples shenanigans with getting their computers and tablets repaired but God forbid a car manufacture does the same thing. I had a friend that could only get his macbook pro serviced at an authorized apple service center. The fundamental problem with standards is that standards holds back innovation. Not that I'm against standards.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • 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.