Auto industry solves its Right to Repair question

Updated Feb 27, 2015

I always hear people in the heavy-duty aftermarket say our industry is consistently seven to ten years behind the automotive industry.

It doesn’t matter what innovation or technology it is, if it is in use in the heavy-duty market, it probably debuted earlier somewhere in or around a car.

If that’s really true, then at least we finally have a timeline for the heavy-duty ‘Right to Repair’ issue.

Yesterday four automotive organizations — Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance), the Association of Global Automakers (Global), the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality (CARE) — released a joint statement announcing the light-duty market has accepted a Right to Repair national agreement.

According to the four organizations, the national agreement will take elements found in Massachusetts’ 2013 Right to Repair ruling and extend the “essential provisions” nationwide.

“We are excited that consumers and independent repair facilities around the nation will have the same access to the information, tools and software needed to service late model computer controlled vehicles as is required under the Massachusetts right to repair statute,” says Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the AAIA. “We believe that the resulting competitive repair market is a win-win for car companies, the independent repair industry and most importantly consumers.”

While this is unquestionably good news for the automotive industry, it means the heavy-duty marketplace must now move forward and create its own resolution.

As those who have followed this issue know, that won’t be easy.

Commercial vehicles were included in one of two Right to Repair laws enacted in Massachusetts in 2012. And while they remained in the Commonwealth’s November 2013 reconciliation law merging the previous laws, their influence was limited.

The current Massachusetts’ law requires OEMs to provide access to onboard diagnostic and repair information for heavy-duty commercial vehicles starting in model year 2018, but only vehicles “that are not heavy-duty vehicles built to custom specifications sold in the commonwealth for commercial purposes,” the law states.

That’s not many trucks.

And due to heavy-duty’s exclusion from yesterday’s agreement, the Massachusetts’ law remains limited to that state.

How the two sides move forward remains unknown at this time. The Commercial Vehicle Right to Repair Coalition, supported by the independent aftermarket, has previously expressed interest in continuing discussion on a state-by-state and national basis.

While early efforts by the coalition to initiate discussion with OEMs have been met with resistance, there is a belief by those on both sides that two sides would benefit from a sit down discussion.

The issue will go nowhere without it, says Joe Suchecki, vice president of public affairs for the Engine Manufacturer’s Association (EMA). And even though the Massachusetts law far from perfect, Suchecki says it at least gives the heavy-duty market a conversational starting point.

“The next stage [for EMA] is having discussions with those who are supporting the heavy-duty Right to Repair argument and find what they really want and what their needs are,” he says.

Hopefully that can happen soon. It’d be nice to see the heavy-duty market stay within a decade of our cohorts on the automotive side for a change.

Note: Be sure to pick up the March edition of Truck Parts & Service for more on the Right to Repair movement in the heavy-duty industry. 

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