In 2002, obtaining a service information agreement from the automobile industry was the top priority for the Automotive Service Association. In 2003, making sure the auto makers implement that agreement is paramount, according to ASA Washington Representative Robert L. Redding.
``Every single indication to date is that it is working,'' Mr. Redding said. At the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service-held in Las Vegas during last fall's Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week-11 of the 35 auto makers that signed the agreement had representatives on hand, he noted, showing the more than 620 attendees their pilot Web sites giving repair and diagnostic information for 15 different makes of vehicles.
Teams of ASA members, led by Bill Haas, vice president of technical services, and members of the association's Mechanical Operations Committee, will closely monitor compliance with the agreement, according to Mr. Redding. ``We won't rely on hit-and-miss reports,'' he said.
The ASA's confidence in the service agreement has not, however, been seconded by other auto service-related organizations. Roy E. Littlefield III, director of legislative and regulatory affairs for the Tire Industry Association, made it plain that TIA will continue to seek passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right-to-Repair Act. That bill creates a federal mandate for auto makers to provide repair and diagnostic information in an easily accessible, affordable format to independent auto repairers.
Mr. Littlefield said he attended the ASA presentation in Las Vegas on the service information agreement and was not reassured by it. ``It was so obvious you need federal oversight, as they tried to defend what they agreed to,'' he said. ``They said they were going to Japan that next week to talk to eight manufacturers who weren't part of the original agreement.''
Mr. Redding said the agreement came out of the directive from Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., at a July hearing on the right-to-repair bill. ``He told us to work this out, and we worked with the auto companies to do just that,'' he said. ``If we hadn't agreed to work it out, that would have been it.''
The House and Senate Commerce Committees told the ASA ``that if we weren't happy with the agreement, they'd take the bill back up,'' he said. He added that the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality also tried to forge an agreement with the auto makers.
As for state inspection/maintenance programs-another longtime ASA priority-the group will have to work hard in 2003 just trying to preserve those I/M programs that remain on the books, Mr. Redding said. For that, he largely blames the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which ``really changed its policy in a major way. At one time it tied inspection/maintenance programs to federal program dollars.'' Now, it takes a laissez-faire attitude toward I/M, and the subject is of very low priority at the agency.
Now only 18 states have I/M programs, and the ASA had to fight to preserve the programs in states such as Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri, he said.
``The whole concept took a heavy hit with the debate over centralized vs. decentralized inspection stations,'' he said. There are no studies demonstrating the efficacy of I/M programs, he added, but a study on that topic shouldn't really be necessary.
``Do bad brakes kill or injure motorists? Logic says yes,'' he said.