WASHINGTON—Four major industry associations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that essentially ends the dispute between auto makers and independent auto repairers over availability of auto repair and diagnostic information. “I never thought I'd live to see the day,” said Sandy Bass-Cors, executive director of the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), about the MOU signed Jan. 22 by her association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), the Association of Global Automakers (AGA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). The MOU extends the essential provisions of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act as enacted in 2012 in Massachusetts to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It requires that auto makers make available for purchase, by motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities, all the repair and diagnostic information they offer their franchised dealers, including technical updates. The agreement covers all model years from 2002 on. It requires that auto makers make the information available in the same form and to the same extent to motorists and independent repairers as they do to dealers, either through their Web-based repair information systems or other readily accessible electronic means. For model year 2018 and beyond, auto makers must provide access to their onboard repair and diagnostic information systems for motorists or independent repairers using off-the-shelf personal computers. The main method for accessing these systems will be a non-proprietary vehicle interface device that meets the standards of Society of Automotive Engineers Standard J2534, International Standards Organization Standard 22500, or whatever standards succeed ASE J2534 or ISO 22500. Allowing access through J2534-compliant devices is an important point, according to a spokesman for the AAM. Previously motorists and independent repair shops could access onboard information—but usually only if they owned each auto maker's proprietary access device. “Toyota already uses J2534,” the spokes-man said. In exchange for the MOU, proponents of Right to Repair have agreed to stop seeking national and state Right to Repair legislation while the provisions of the MOU are implemented. Dick Cole, executive director of the New England Tire & Service Association, was one of the chief advocates for passage of Massachusetts' Right to Repair bill. He told Tire Business the MOU wouldn't be fully implemented until all the member-companies of the AAM and AGA signed on to it. Nevertheless, Mr. Cole was pleased with the MOU and optimistic about its success. “If we can get all the auto makers to sign on, that would be wonderful,” he said. “We're already way ahead of where we were a year ago.” “If the manufacturers don't live up to their end of the bargain, that could change,” said Aaron Lowe, AAIA vice president of government affairs. “But this will at least end legislative activity for the next several years.” Critics of auto makers' information-sharing policies first introduced a Right to Repair bill in the U.S. Congress in 2001, gradually moving to individual states after becoming dissatisfied with the slow progress of national legislation. In September 2002, the auto makers made a voluntary agreement with the Automotive Service Association (ASA) to provide repair and diagnostic information. That agreement included the establishment of the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) as a clearinghouse and watchdog group for complaints by independent repairers. NASTF representatives testified at legislative hearings that complaints from independent technicians regarding repair information were sparse. Opponents of the voluntary agreement, however, testified that repair and diagnostic information was still expensive and difficult to access. They also said that few auto repairers had time to file formal complaints with the NASTF. The MOU replaces the voluntary agreement and the NASTF, according to AGA President and CEO Mike Stanton. “The MOU has much more teeth than the voluntary agreement,” Mr. Stanton said. “The enforcement provisions in the MOU are already in the Massachusetts law.” AGA and AAM member companies are already providing the data, and auto makers continue to believe the voluntary plan worked, according to Mr. Stanton. Nevertheless, the Massachusetts law provided the impetus for all interested parties to come together and negotiate, he said. Though not a signatory of the MOU, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) has long been a staunch supporter of Right to Repair. “This is exactly what we hoped the manufacturers would do,” said TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield. “Without knowing the specifics, we certainly support and applaud the concept.” The ASA, whose agreement with the auto makers the MOU supersedes, also expressed support for the MOU. “We believe this agreement has made a significant contribution to the automotive independent repairer,” said Robert L. Redding, ASA Washington representative. “It is encouraging to see the automotive industry continue to come together on non-legislative solutions for the service information issue,” Mr. Redding said. “On these most important issues, a government solution should be the last option, not the first.” AAIA President and CEO Kathleen Schmatz said the AAIA believes “that the resulting competitive repair market is a win-win for car companies, the independent repair industry and most importantly consumers.” AAM President and CEO Mitch Bainwol said: “Accessible, efficient, accurate, and competitively priced repair and service are paramount, and franchised dealers and the aftermarket play unique and important roles in the repair process.” The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is an association of 12 vehicle manufacturers: BMW Group, Chrysler Group L.L.C., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Cars North America. The Association of Global Automakers represents international motor vehicle manufacturers, original equipment suppliers, and other automotive-related trade associations. Members include American Honda Motor Co., Aston Martin Lagonda of North America Inc., Ferrari North America Inc., Hyundai Motor America, Isuzu Motors America Inc., Kia Motors America Inc., Maserati North America, Inc., McLaren Automotive Ltd., Nissan North America Inc., Subaru of America Inc., Suzuki Motor of America Inc., and Toyota Motor North America Inc. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association is a Bethesda, Md.-based association whose more than 23,000 members and affiliates manufacture, distribute and sell motor vehicle parts, accessories, service, tools, equipment, materials and supplies. Through its membership, the AAIA represents more than 100,000 repair shops, parts stores and distribution outlets. To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com.
Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you'd like to share with our readers? Tire Business would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor Don Detore at [email protected].