In the not-too-distant future — within two years, to be exact — nearly 90% of new cars sold in the United States will have the ability to transmit repair and diagnostic data to automotive repair facilities telematically.
Those facilities, however, might not include your own if efforts to ensure independent access to vehicle data are unsuccessful.
Imagine helplessly standing by while motorists are forced to take their vehicles to car dealerships for service work — bypassing your location because you’ve been “frozen out.”
Aaron Lowe, senior vice president, regulatory and government affairs, for the Auto Care Association, recently called vehicle data access “probably the most significant issue facing our industry.”
Given the fact that many of you derive a significant amount of your income from automotive service, it’s difficult to dismiss that as an overstatement.
Making sure that you have continued access to repair and diagnostic information should be a top priority.
I’m happy to report that significant progress is being made at both the national and state levels.A draft of a federal bill that would ensure vehicle data access by independent auto service repair facilities recently gained bipartisan sponsorship, with the goal of being introduced in the near future.
We, as an industry, also have an opportunity to influence efforts that are taking place in Massachusetts — which, if successful, could become a template for other states.
You might recall that the original Right to Repair law in Massachusetts was passed in 2012.
This led to the establishment of an agreement between the Auto Care Association, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality and vehicle manufacturers that required OEMs to make the same service information that they provide to their franchised dealers available to independent repair facilities.
Telematically transmitted vehicle data, however, was not included at that time, says Lowe. And that’s what the United States Vehicle Data Access Coalition, of which both the Auto Care Association and the Tire Industry Association are members, is trying to rectify.
Legislators in Massachusetts recently heard arguments for and against open access. They now have until May 15 to authorize an amendment to the states’s existing Right to Repair Law that would require car manufacturers to equip vehicles “with an inter-operable, standardized and open access platform” across all makes and models.
According to the authors of the amendment, “such platform shall be capable of securely communicating all mechanical data emanating directly from the motor vehicle via direct data connection to the platform.”
In addition, the platform “shall be directly accessible by the owner of the vehicle through a mobile-based application and, upon the authorization of the vehicle owner, all mechanical data shall be directly accessible by an independent repair facility.”
By the way, the amendment also provides for “heavy-duty vehicles having a gross vehicle weight of more than 14,000 pounds.”
The coalition then must secure 13,000 signatures by June to “guarantee an appearance on the November ballot,” according to Lowe.
When it comes to ensuring open access, “a national approach would be better for everyone,” he says. “But because of the way Washington D.C. works, the states are a more politically dynamic place for us to go, where we can see a better discussion and faster action.”
How can you get involved? If you live in Massachusetts, “contact your legislators,” says Lowe. “Call and let them know that this is important to the future of your business and your customers.”
If you live in another state, bring the issue to the attention of your representatives.
“At the federal level, we would urge dealers to encourage members of Congress” to support pro-access legislation.
Make education a priority. “We’re doing a lot of education in the state of Massachusetts but nationally, legislators and the public need to be more aware of this issue,” he notes.
Vehicle data access is a consumer choice issue. But it also has serious ramifications for your business.
Let’s use this window of opportunity make our voices heard. ■
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