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VIP's Winkeler Leads Right to Repair Fight in Maine

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VIP Tire CEO Tim Winkeler talks with managers.jpg

VIP Tires & Service CEO Tim Winkeler chats and mingles with managers during a 2021 meeting of the company's store managers.

| Photo Credit: MTD

Consumers in Maine could be the next to vote on a Right to Repair referendum. The effort is being led by Tim Winkeler, the president and CEO of VIP Inc., dba VIP Tires & Service.

With the support of other independent automotive repair businesses around the state, Winkeler has submitted an application for what Maine calls a “citizen initiative.” The application, along with proposed legislation, is under review by state officials, and ultimately will require the signatures of citizens to push the issue onto a statewide ballot in November 2023.

Once the initial reviews are complete and the group and state agree upon the referendum language, the group will have until Jan. 26, 2023, to submit the required number of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.

As it stands now, the coalition’s proposal proposes this question for Maine voters:

“Do you support independent auto repair shops and car repair businesses to have access to electronic mechanical data equipment and parts for all motor vehicles, including commercial motor vehicles, in order to repair the vehicle and ensure motor vehicle road safety?”

The legislation would apply to all motor vehicles, including commercial and heavy duty vehicles, with a gross weight of more than 14,000 pounds.

The coalition wants to ensure independent repair facilities have access to a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic systems, as well as access to purchase all of the needed tools, parts and software to make repairs. Those pieces all need to come with the same capabilities that car dealerships and other authorized shops have access to.

Aftermarket scan tool companies need that same information for diagnostics and repairs.

The drafted legislation says, “All parts, tools, software and other components necessary to complete a full repair of the vehicle … shall be included and provided to car owners and authorized independent repair shops.”

The group also wants the Maine attorney general to designate “an independent entity not controlled by one or more of the motor vehicle manufacturers” to provide access to the data a vehicle generates. That independent entity should include one representative “from a cross section of each industry trade group included but not limited to organizations representing the motor vehicle manufacturers, aftermarket parts manufacturers, aftermarket parts distributors/retailers, independent vehicle service providers and new car dealers.”

That entity would specifically be charged with identifying and adopting standards, monitoring policies regarding the evolving use and availability of vehicle data, and ultimately creating policies that comply with other related laws, standards, technologies and best practices.

The legislation notes original equipment manufacturers could face civil action and a penalty of $10,000 for each denial of access.

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