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Survey: Repair shops believe vehicle manufacturers will short change them

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Seventy percent of independent repair shop owners, service advisors and technicians have no confidence that car companies will always provide access to the necessary information and tools for repair, according to a survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp.

The study was commissioned by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) to assess the scope of the difficulties facing independent repair shops in obtaining service information and tools from vehicle manufacturers.

"Without a doubt, this independent survey demonstrates the extensive problems being encountered by independent repair shops that cannot obtain the tools and information they need to be competitive with new car dealers," says Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA CEO and president. "Without the equitable access to repair information outlined in the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act (HR 2048), more and more repair shops will be forced to turn away customers and consumers will have no choice but to go to the car dealer to get their cars serviced."

More than 1,000 repair shops were surveyed regarding their experience in obtaining service information and tools from the vehicle manufacturers. Some of the highlights of the study include the following:

* Independents found that either "much of the data" or "some of the data" was missing from information provided by car companies. Further, the majority of respondents stated that the manufacturers "never" or "only sometimes" provide all of the capabilities in their tools needed to complete repairs.

* The problem of missing data and tools is much more pronounced among the foreign name-plate vehicles than the domestics.

* The top five areas listed as absent from car company supplied information were electric systems, driveability, engine control modules, anti-theft systems and emissions.

* Nearly one-half of respondents purchase repair information "as needed," and an equal number of respondents "never" purchase repair information from the car companies.

* Repair shops experience an average of 12 hours of lost work time -- a 5.6% loss in productivity -- per month because of a lack of service information and tools available to them.

* 70% of the respondents have no confidence that car companies will always provide them with the necessary information and tools required for repair.

* Independent repair shops turn away 1.2 million consumers each year because they do not have the information and tools to diagnose and repair their customer's vehicles.

According to the AAIA, the independent aftermarket is losing $5.8 billion in service and parts sales annually, in part because they are unable to readily access the necessary repair information and tools from the car manufacturers to properly diagnose and repair vehicles.

"This comprehensive look at the repair issue further shows that while car companies claim the problem is solved, the reality does not support their assertions," says Schmatz. "Passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act of 2005 (HR 2048) is the only way to provide a strong message for now and into the future that all information and tools must be made readily available to the independent aftermarket."

The Right to Repair Act, which was introduced by Reps. Joe Barton, (R-Texas), Edolphus Towns, (D-N.Y.) and Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), would require the car companies to make the same service information and tools capabilities available to independents that they provide their franchised dealer networks.

Architects of the Right to Repair Act added new language this year to clarify that car company trade secrets are protected unless that information is provided to the franchised new car dealer. The new language also clarifies the responsibilities of the Federal Trade Commission in enforcing the bill's requirements.

For results of the study, visit AAIA's Web site at www.aftermarket.org. For more information about the Right to Repair Act. visit www.RightToRepair.org.

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