Lowe stated that Right to Repair legislation that is now under consideration in many states and Congress would require car companies to make available, at a fair and reasonable cost, the same tools and information that they make available to their franchised dealers, thus ensuring that consumers can have a choice on where they bring their vehicle.
“The basic concept behind Right to Repair is that a car owner who spends an enormous percentage of their household savings to purchase a new or used car, should have the ability to determine who repairs their vehicle, whether it’s the new dealer or the independent shop. In the current scenario, the company has all of the power to make that determination,” Lowe said.
Lowe took issue with allegations made by the car companies and their dealers that testified that Right to Repair would require car companies to expose trade secrets.
“Right to Repair legislation provides extensive protection for car company trade secrets and the car companies have never been able to point to a provision in any of the current bills that has the potential to violate their intellectual property rights,” said Lowe.
Lowe also disputed claims by the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and the car companies that all of the information is available. Lowe told the committee that independent shops continue to be frustrated by the fact that, despite their extensive investments in information, tools and training, they continue to run into roadblocks when attempting to complete repairs on many vehicles and are forced to either tell the customer they need to return to the dealer or they take the car to the dealer for the customer, so as to not jeopardize the car owner’s trust in that shop.
The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) also testified at the hearing regarding the need for the legislation.
“NASTF is a one-person operation aimed at resolving a big problem,” Lowe said. “It often takes weeks or months to obtain a resolution from the manufacturer and often that resolution is a response that the information is not available or we are working to resolve that issue. A shop that has a car in one of its service bays needs to have that car repaired the same day, or at worst, the next, or will lose that business permanently. That is why the organization is rarely used by independent service facilities.”
In addition to Connecticut, Right to Repair bills have been introduced in Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. AAIA expects that a Right to Repair bill will be reintroduced in the current session of Congress sometime early this year.
AAIA is a Bethesda, Md.-based association whose more than 23,000 member and affiliates manufacture, distribute, and sell motor vehicle parts, accessories, service, tools, equipment, materials and supplies. Through its membership, AAIA represents more than 100,000 repair shops, parts stores and distribution outlets.