Federal right to repair bill shifts spotlight back to auto industry, vehicle data

David Beckam

Rush’s bill adds fuel to an already heated issue that has pitted automakers against independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers, despite a memorandum of understanding signed by those key stakeholders in 2014.

That agreement, which came about after Massachusetts passed its own automotive right-to-repair law in 2013, gave shops in all states the same access to diagnostic and repair information.

Following the introduction of Rush’s bill, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation — which represents most major automakers in the U.S. — said the auto industry “continues its long-standing commitment to consumer choice for vehicle repairs.”

“And that commitment remains the gold standard for other industries, with competition thriving as the aftermarket performs 70 percent of post-warranty work on today’s vehicles,” John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said in a statement to Automotive News. “Our national MOU continues to work and ensures that all information needed to repair and diagnose a vehicle is available.”

Robert O’Koniewski, executive vice president of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, said his state’s 2013 law “works as intended” and provides the information and tooling from automakers needed to diagnose and repair vehicles.

“If this has been such a problem nationwide under the 2014 MOU between the vehicle manufacturers and the independent repair community, why has not one other state passed an RTR law to protect repairers and car owners in their own states?” O’Koniewski told Automotive News.

According to Rush’s bill, if a vehicle manufacturer uses wireless technology or telematics systems to transmit any data related to diagnostics and repair, it must make that data available through a standardized access platform. The use of such technology wasn’t as common when the memorandum of understanding was signed, and the aftermarket parts industry is concerned it will be locked out of access to the data.

The federal bill is similar to a controversial ballot measure in Massachusetts that was enacted by voters in 2020. The measure expanded the existing right-to-repair law and required makers of vehicles sold in the state to equip vehicles that use telematics systems with a standardized, open-access data platform, beginning with the 2022 model year. It also gave vehicle owners and independent repair shops access to real-time information from the telematics, such as crash notifications, remote diagnostics and navigation.

In an ongoing legal battle with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the alliance has argued that the state’s amended law conflicts with several federal laws, poses cybersecurity and vehicle safety risks and sets an impossible timeline for compliance.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock is expected to issue a ruling March 7.

“If members of Congress wish to nationalize the statutory coverage for repairers and car owners alike, I would suggest they simply take the text of our 2013 law and memorialize that in the U.S. legal code,” O’Koniewski said. “Any text beyond our 2013 law is a solution in desperate search for a problem.”


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