The right to access diagnostic repair data has been a hotly debated topic within the industry as of late. While automakers insist that opening access to data will jeopardize safety, independent shops have argued it is a profit-driven strategy to direct consumers to dealerships for services and repairs.
Many in the industry are feeling the pressure to make their positions on the issue known, which is exactly what was recently done by the Automotive Service Association (ASA).
In collaboration with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (which represents OEMs), the ASA created a letter to members of Congress with views on Right to Repair collectively agreed upon by the three organizations, based upon a national agreement made in 2014 called the Memorandum of Understanding.
The letter stated that information provided to authorized dealers should also be accessible to independent shops. This can range from telematics data to technologies and powertrains for all vehicles, including gasoline, diesel, fuel cell, electric battery, hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric.
Ways to make repair information accessible to others were proposed, such as having it directly accessible through an automaker’s website, shared access points such as OEM1Stop.com, or third-party information providers.
Though the letter was presented as a stance representing the industry, it has not been met with universal approval.
The Auto Care Association’s response called the letter “a thinly veiled attempt to confuse lawmakers and drivers” and said it was not consulted on the drafting of the ASA’s agreement document. The Association pointed to flaws in prior agreements, including that OEMs would not be bound to any participation in Right to Repair compliance and that OEMs would not be obligated to allow direct access to telematics data.
Another group, the Auto Care Alliance, called into question ASA’s true stance on Right to Repair, claiming that rather than supporting it, ASA has been fighting against Right to Repair legislation for the past two decades.
As evidence of this, the Auto Care Alliance cited a 2003 agreement made between manufacturers and ASA that the Auto Care Association said, “lacked enforcement” and slowed down progress in gaining Right to Repair legislation.
Though the ASA referenced the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding as the basis of its agreement, the Auto Care Alliance doubts the choice of this foundation, arguing that the terms of that 2014 agreement have not since been honored and that requests for dispute resolution have gone unanswered.
In addition, MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers came out with a statement questioning the purpose of the agreement.
In MEMA’s statement, they outline specific issues that must be addressed regarding Right to Repair: access to data for light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as explicit protection for consumers to access that data.
MEMA follows this by affirming its support of the REPAIR Act, claiming that it addresses these issues.
The Impact on Smaller Operations
According to coverage from Wired, many are still concerned with smaller, independent businesses not having access to information from cameras and sensors. This includes data on location, speed acceleration and the vehicle’s software status.
“We want easy and affordable access to that information for the independent repair shop,” explains Auto Care Association Chair Corey Bartlett, as reported by Wired.
Shops that can afford to pay into certified networks of shops are often able to access information easier, such as Michael Bradshaw, vice president of K & M Collision in Hickory, North Carolina, and vice chair of SCRS. His shop pays to be in 30 automaker certification programs that include Kia, General Motors, Bentley and Rivian. Though Bradshaw doesn’t see a problem with having to pay for information, many worry that this paywall to information will only grow higher.
“My fear, if no one gives some stronger guidelines, is that I know automakers are going to monetize car data in a way that’s unaffordable for us to gain access,” Dynamic Automotive Co-Owner Dwayne Myers told Wired.
There is still much discussion to be had on Right to Repair legislation, but it is a discussion that the industry must be involved in—not a select group.
“In terms of how automakers behave and whether vehicle owners or repair shops will get access to information—I don’t think this will change anything,” SecuRepairs.org Founder Paul Roberts stated to Wired.