Tuesday, 01 December 2020 23:22

Collision Parts Might Creep Into Federal ‘Right to Repair’ Bill as OEMs Fight MA Law

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During an online panel discussion after Massachusetts voters approved a “Right to Repair” ballot initiative in November, Aaron Lowe of the Auto Care Association said a push for similar legislation at the federal level was the next step. During an online panel discussion after Massachusetts voters approved a “Right to Repair” ballot initiative in November, Aaron Lowe of the Auto Care Association said a push for similar legislation at the federal level was the next step.


Despite millions of dollars from automakers spent this year to oppose an updated “Right to Repair” ballot initiative in Massachusetts, voters there in November overwhelmingly voted in favor of the measure, with three in four giving it a thumbs up.

Now, however, the initiative faces a legal challenge from the OEMs even before it goes into effect.


The law will require all model year 2022 or newer vehicles to have a standardized open data platform, giving vehicle owners and independent repairers access to telematics data.


Backers of the legislation included the Auto Care Association; parts sellers like NAPA, AutoZone and LKQ Corp.; and independent shops.


They say the law won’t prevent automakers from using “secure gateway” systems---like Fiat Chrysler of America’s use of AutoAuth---to require user registration, and use of authorized scan tools by those seeking to access telematics data.


It would, however, require any such processes be standardized across automakers so independent shops, for example, wouldn’t have to use a variety of gateways to access different makes of vehicles.


Just weeks after the election, automakers filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to rule the law unconstitutional and unenforceable.


The Alliance of Automotive Innovation, a trade group formed earlier this year with the merger of two automaker trade groups, argues in its lawsuit the law would hamper auto manufacturers’ ability to keep vehicle data and vehicle systems safe.


It cites written testimony from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to a Massachusetts legislative committee that stated the law would force “vehicle manufacturers to redesign their vehicles in a manner that necessarily introduces cybersecurity risks, and to do so in a timeframe that makes design, proof and implementation of any meaningful countermeasure effectively impossible.”


The Auto Care Association issued a statement decrying the automakers’ lawsuit.


“The Auto Care Association is very disappointed to see this pattern of behavior from the vehicle manufacturers...

...against the American people, who want the right to control their vehicle mechanical data and to share it with their independent repair shops,” the association said in a statement. “Over the last several years, the Auto Care Association has joined with cybersecurity experts to develop international standards that could be readily implemented and will permit the cyber-secure sharing of data.”


In an online panel discussion during the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo the day after the Nov. 3 election, the Auto Care Association and other backers of the legislation said their next step was to push for similar legislation on a national level.


“We all know the big prize is getting this done on a national basis,” the association’s Aaron Lowe said.


That’s something the coalition was previously unsuccessful at making happen despite a nearly decade-long effort, which led instead to the first Massachusetts “Right to Repair” ballot measure, passed by voters in 2012. That bill in turn led the automakers to sign a national memorandum of understanding with the aftermarket proponents to agree to comply with the Massachusetts law nationwide.


“Right to Repair” proponents now say they intend to take another run at a national bill in 2021.


But the collision repair industry may want to watch whether any such bill expands beyond data access into other areas of interest by coalition members, such as LKQ Corporation, which had a representative on the post-election online panel discussion, and the Consumer Access to Repair (CAR) Coalition.


That group, formed in 2020, is funded by insurers and the non-OEM parts industry, and has a stated goal of “preserving and protecting consumer choice, transparency and affordability in the post-collision repair market.”


Lowe on the post-election call indicated that crash parts could be part of the federal legislation. The bill, he said, should address “not just data access but a lot of the other competitive issues that are going on in our industry…because of work that’s being done by the manufacturers [such as] requirements for OEM collision parts in different states.