repair & maintenance

Apathy greatest threat in Right to Repair

Right to Repair (R2R) has been a rallying cry in automotive aftermarket circles for years.

Following Massachusetts enacting an R2R mandate in 2020, there are national R2R bills under consideration in the U.S. and Canada.

The bills need support from the automotive aftermarket since such regulations could impact how, or if, independent repair shops work on newer cars that function with telematics and computers.

Mechanics need more than a wrench these days when working on the new generation of vehicles. They need tools and access to retrieve mechanical data from, and send commands to, the vehicle for repair, maintenance and diagnostic testing.

The vehicle manufacturers argue that providing universal access to proprietary telematics information would create cybersecurity problems.

Several trade associations are backing the national R2R bills, claiming universal data access preserves consumers’ right to choose which facility they want to have their vehicle repaired and ensures independent repair shops have equal access to repair and maintenance tools and data as the vehicle makers’ licensed dealerships.

They contend the R2R fight is about maintaining a level playing field for competition between independent auto repair shops and new-car dealerships, which have been grabbing a larger share of the maintenance and repair business.

“Protecting competition is really important, because that’s what keeps quality high and prices low,” said Gabrielle Hopkins, vice president of federal affairs at the Auto Care Association (ACA).

Bill Hanvey, CEO of the ACA, urged members to make their voices heard in Congress.

Of all the dangers impacting the health and well-being of automotive aftermarket businesses, “apathy is our greatest threat,” he said during the recent ACA 2022 Business Outlook webinar.

Hanvey warned that business owners can get lulled into complacency about the impact of regulations and technology, while they are enjoying booming sales and while demand for parts and services are outpacing supply.

“We need all to be much more activated in preserving our future. Our industry has 10 lobbyists collectively. … Advocating for the auto makers, they have 270 lobbyists,” he said.

“Despite the fact that we employ over 4 million people, we have a hard time activating people within our industry to become engaged in the preservation of our future.”

The ACA and other trade associations are encouraging members to urge their congressional representatives to co-sponsor the R2R bill, or at least support it.

Other ways business owners can get involved, per the ACA: invite a member of Congress to your business and explain how your business works and its role in the community; donate to an automotive aftermarket PAC; or at least sign a petition that supports Right to Repair.

Associations have said that legislators at all levels want to learn more about their constituents and the issues they face, but it is difficult for them to support an issue they know little about or how it would impact their constituents.

It’s time for tire dealers and auto repair shops to make their voices heard.

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