WASHINGTON-The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and all but two of its members have signed letters of intent to provide independent auto repair technicians with all the information and diagnostic tools they need to repair late-model vehicles.
By Jan. 1, 2003, all the signatory auto makers vow to make available to independent repairers the same diagnostic tools, tool information, service information and training materials that they give to their franchised dealers, according to the letter of intent signed Oct. 30.
If made final, this agreement would obviate the need for repair information right-to-know legislation introduced in the House in August, according to Robert L. Redding, Washington representative for the Automotive Service Association.
Obtaining diagnostic tools and service information about vehicles has been a hard fight for independent auto technicians since the 1970s, according to Mr. Redding. ``This 180-degree turnaround in policy is very welcome to us,'' he said.
Gregory Dana, vice president of environmental affairs for the AAM, signed the letter of intent for his association. Only Honda and Porsche among auto makers did not join in signing the letter, and both companies seem at least to be friendly to the idea of sharing information with independent repairers, Mr. Redding said. ``One ASA board member who's a Porsche specialist says he's always worked well with them.''
Four signatory companies-BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler A.G., Saab Cars USA Inc. and Volkswagen of America-made some exceptions in their statements to the information they would provide independent repair shops.
``We would not like our commitment to be understood to require us to make available in all instances diagnostic tools identical to those provided to our dealers,'' wrote Kip Kriigel, process leader of technical service for Volkswagen of America. While VW would make sure independents had the same diagnostic and repair capabilities as dealers, Mr. Kriigel said, differently designed tools ``may be more appropriate for independent technicians in light of their non-specialist training and resources.''
BMW also said the tools and information it provided, though giving complete information, may not be identical to those provided to dealers. Saab said it would make exceptions in safety and security information; DaimlerChrysler made exceptions for Mercedes-Benz safety systems.
Several of the companies said it was always their policy to provide such information to independent shops, and that the letters of intent merely formalized that arrangement. ``We never excluded anyone or anything from getting information,'' said Daniel E. Doku of Volvo Cars of North America Inc.
Mr. Redding said representatives of independent auto technicians would meet with AAM and other auto industry officials in January to try and finalize the agreement.