We're normally not the publication to issue dire warnings or light a fire under our valued readers' cozy seat. So when we tell you, dear tire dealer, to do yourself a service and pay attention to right-to-repair (R2R) legislation, we're serious.
It's time again to defend the aftermarket.
It's an issue that likely popped up in your news or social media feed linked to cellphones — probably Apple. The reason it is coming to the forefront is because every person who has ever dropped their phone and cracked the screen has wondered why he or she can't get it fixed on the cheap without completely voiding the warranty.
The R2R issue is about the aftermarket.
When your bright, new, shiny thing breaks, who gets to fix it?
Many manufacturers would argue that to repair a product efficiently, it is best done by those who made it. It makes sense from their viewpoint.
Consumers would argue it raises repair prices and lengthens repair time. This problem, long ago, was how the aftermarket was built.
No one is surprised to see a 2002 Honda Civic driving down the road in 2021. The aftermarket made it so.
When you look at it in the microcosm of our aftermarket — tires, parts and auto service industry — that OEM argument is not good for business, and it's not good for consumers.
President Biden signed a wide-ranging executive order July 9 — 72 initiatives in all — aimed at giving the economy a boost by limiting unfair advantages of large business to encourage competition from smaller businesses.
What is mentioned in the long order, several times across several themes, like agriculture and new technology, is the need for consumer freedom to pursue do-it-yourself (DIY) and third-party repair.
Remember, this is an executive order, so you'll see the word "encourage" a lot. In this case, the White House is "encouraging" the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to set new rules.
The FTC will decide the size and scope. So who knows what shape it will take.
But in the tire and auto industry which is going through an autonomous and digital revolution, this is an issue that should be decided before — some are predicting as soon as 10 years — we are all driving electronic vehicles. Five years after the "near-future" reaches us, the aftermarket is going to be buzzing with EV owners looking for economical, timely service.
And new rules should be in place.
Or we'll look back to right now and wished we'd paid attention.