Tire dealerships and other independent auto repair shops must have full and reasonably priced access to necessary vehicle repair and diagnostic information if they are to compete successfully in the automotive service arena.
That makes it doubly important that there be some teeth behind the recent agreement forged by the Automotive Service Association and two automobile manufacturers' associations.
That agreement pledges open and readily available access to repair data covering emission- and non-emission-related service information, training information and diagnostic tools.
Without guaranteed access to such information and diagnostic tools for all makes and models of cars, sport-utility vehicles and trucks, independent repair shops would be unable to service certain vehicles that come into their locations.
In many cases, tire dealers and others would be forced to send customers to new car dealerships to have their vehicles repaired-competitors that vie not only for the consumers' automotive service business, but increasingly for their tire needs as well.
What's more, providing independent shops with necessary repair data and equipment will give consumers a choice in where they have their vehicles fixed, rather than limiting them to new-car franchise dealerships.
According to a recent Coalition for Auto Repair Equality press release, car dealer vehicle repairs can cost up to 20-percent more than what independent garages charge, greatly impacting low-, fixed- and middle- income drivers.
While the pact is a step in the right direction, we agree with the Tire Industry Association, CARE and several other industry organizations that passage of the congressional bill, the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, must take place to ensure auto makers live up to their promises.
Such a bill is needed to provide an enforcement mechanism to the agreement.
And lest you think such enforcement is unnecessary, consider that last year 20 auto makers signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to provide service information to independent repairers.
But ASA Vice President Bill Haas told a congressional subcommittee hearing July 30 that, six months later, only three auto makers had taken steps to implement these MOUs while four had reneged on them. That's not an encouraging percentage.
Realistically, legislation is needed if independent repairers expect to have unencumbered access to the data and diagnostic equipment needed to service late-model vehicles, regardless of the manufacturer.
Tire dealers, TIA and other independent repairers should continue to push for passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act. Independent repair shops' auto service revenue could depend on it.