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Dealer responds to Right to Repair column

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Barry Steinberg, president of Direct Tire and Auto Service based in Watertown, Mass., wrote a letter to the editor of The Boston Globe in response to a recent column concerning the Motor Vehicles Owner's Right to Repair Act.

He wrote, "That was a great article by Anna Tinsley that ran in Saturday's Automotive section ('Diagnostic code stalling independent mechanics,' Dec. 24 ).

"I have been in the tire and auto repair business for 32 years and have never seen such a deliberate attempt by auto manufacturers to force the consumer to go back to the car dealer for service. We have invested many thousands of dollars on all the latest testing and diagnostic equipment and training we can buy, and still there are certain fault codes we cannot fix. I feel this is the auto manufacturers' way of helping the car dealers make more revenue in an industry of questionable growth.

"The government must pass the Right to Repair Act and protect the public from being forced to have no choice but to go back to the dealer. There are built-in blocks to codes that will not allow an independent, regardless of skill set or equipment, to fix certain failures. This monopoly is certainly going to cost the public more money to maintain and repair their vehicles. People should have a choice and they do not."

The columnist quoted U.S. Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, as saying, "The legislation has one purpose: putting vehicle owners in the driver's seat when it comes to choosing where to have their car repaired."

The Tire Industry Association, the writer noted, feels that the bill is needed, "that a 'handshake agreement' between the automotive association and auto manufacturers to provide information doesn't guarantee that it will be affordable."

Support for the measure also comes from the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, Tinsley wrote. She quoted Aaron Lowe, vice president of government affairs for the association. "The use of computers is likely to increase dramatically over the next several years.

"While these computers provide both safety, entertainment, and drivability benefits for car owners, it also provides the opportunity for car companies to lock in maintenance and service business for their new car dealers. Currently 70% to 75% of car owners use independent shops once their new car warranty has expired."

For the full text of Tinsley's column, see www.boston.com/cars. For more information on the Right to Repair Act, visit www.righttorepair.org.

Steinberg was Modern Tire Dealer's first Tire Dealer of the Year in 1993. In addition to tires, his dealership specializes in tire alignment and brake service.

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