Should We Have Automotive “Right To Repair”?
We have talked about “Dealership repair vs Aftermarket repair” many times before. One thing that I didn’t touch on is the “Right to Repair” issue. This is legislation aimed at forcing auto manufacturers to provide more repair information and tool to the aftermarket. This is going beyond the how to information.
Based on the legislation, it seems that “Right to Repair” is trying to get information on the control modules in the car. You can read the legislation here. This comes from the “Right to Repair” site.
While the problems experienced by independent technicians are wide ranging, the following are three major issues now faced by independent repair shops in attempting to obtain the information and tools needed to work on today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles:
- Codes needed to reinitialize vehicle computer systems are not made available. Independent shops often are able to perform many repairs only to be stymied at the end when they cannot obtain the code to reinitialize the vehicle’s computers and thus complete the repair. Absent entering the code, in many cases the car owner would not be able to restart the car following the repairs.
- Information provided to new dealers is more effective than what is provided to independents. A great deal of diagnostic and repair data is provided to car company franchised dealerships over “hotlines” that are not accessible to independent repair shops or consumers. Information available through these dealer-only networks provide valuable diagnostic assistance for hard to solve problem and might also have information regarding safety related repairs that need to be completed, but which an independent shop and car owner might not be aware of until a technical service bulletin or recall is released, a process that can take months if not years.
- The growing use of telematic systems by car companies will permit critical marketing and repair information to flow wirelessly using cell phone technology to the dealer, leaving the independents out of the loop. While telematics will provide extensive benefits to car owners, it also will be used by car companies and their dealers to tie the customer to the dealer long after the new car warranty has expired.
As I see it, the aftermarket wants to have full access to all of the control modules and their information. Anything from coding modules, to advanced diagnostics. It will also include the information that we get from VW technical help line.
The truth is, most of this information is already out there. Think about all the information that is in repair manuals like Alldata, Chiltons, Mitchell and so on. Most if not all of the information needed to repair modern cars is out there. It is just a matter of PAYING for it.
We can take VW for a great example. If you buy VCDS (an aftermarket diagnostic software for VW and Audi) you can do just about everything with anything we can do with the dealer scantool. You can also buy the rights to adapt new keys and control modules. That would allow anyone to perform just about repairs on VWs. Like I said, the channels are out there, it is just a matter of finding and paying for them.
So what is the solution?
Well, to me the solution is really easy. If an aftermarket wants to play, they need to pay. It might be a matter of buying the proper diagnostic equipment and tools. The funny part about that is, it will increase the cost of doing business with an aftermarket shop. Tool and repair manual companies can have the information available shortly after a new car comes out. Well within the warranty period. If an aftermarket shop wants to do advanced electrical diagnosis, then it is up to them to buy the proper equipment.
What would happen if car makers were forced to GIVE the information away? Would it give you more options on getting your car fixed? Yep! Would, at some point, raise the cost of buying that new car? Maybe.. Remember that the costs will always roll down hill to the customer. I don’t care what side of this you are on, NO ONE can argue that.
I will be keeping my ear pretty close to this one. With that said, what do you guys think? Do dealers have “unfair” advantages? Please keep in mind the word “UNFAIR”. I really would like to know your thoughts on this.. Post it up in the comments.