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Mass. voters approve Right to Repair issue

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BOSTON—A measure approving the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act passed on the Massachusetts ballot Nov. 6 with 86 percent of the vote.

The measure appeared as Question 1 on the state ballot. A total of 2.33 million Massachusetts constituents voted “Yes” on the question, while 393,625 voted “No,” according to the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition.

Right to Repair makes it illegal for any manufacturer of a passenger car, truck, motorcycle, recreational vehicle or construction vehicle to withhold from buyers or independent repairers the same repair and diagnostic information they make available to their franchised dealers.

“Voters sent a clear message to auto makers—'It's my car, I paid for it, I'll get it fixed where I want, not where some big corporation tells me to,'” said Arthur Kinsman of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition. “When you buy a car from a manufacturer's dealer, you ought to have the information necessary to fix that vehicle. Technology should never leave the rights of car owners behind.”

The Massachusetts legislature also approved a compromise Right to Repair bill July 31, which was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick a few days later. However, the passage of the compromise bill missed by four weeks a deadline that would have allowed time to withdraw the more strongly worded ballot measure.

“The problem now is that you have two laws on the books with conflicting regulations,” said a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), which opposes Right to Repair.

Besides the uncertainty the conflicting laws create for all stakeholders, the ballot measure creates a particularly tight situation for auto makers, the AAM spokesman said.

“There's not a lot of time for us,” he told Tire Business. “The ballot measure requires all auto makers to comply by model year 2015. Some of those models will be in showrooms by January 2014, meaning they will start going into production next summer. Most of our members' cars today are not compliant with the ballot measure.”

The AAM plans to work with the Massachusetts legislature to resolve the differences between the two laws, but to date no meetings have been scheduled, the spokesman said.

The AAM and other groups such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA) insist the voluntary information agreement made between auto makers and the ASA in 2002 is more than adequate to ensure availability of repair information.

“We believe the information is available now, and that the auto makers have kept their word,” said Robert L. Redding, Washington representative for the ASA.

However, Right to Repair supporters such as the Tire Industry Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) said the information websites set up under an agreement among the auto makers and the ASA are often incomplete, hard to navigate and prohibitively expensive.

Aaron Lowe, AAIA vice president of government affairs, said he hoped the overwhelming support for the Massachusetts Right to Repair ballot measure would create impetus to pass a national Right to Repair law.

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