WASHINGTON — Maine voters recently approved a vehicle right-to-repair a proposal by an overwhelming margin, potentially triggering another legal battle amid opposition from major auto makers.
The measure, which passed with a plurality of about 84% of vote, requires auto makers to standardize vehicle onboard diagnostic systems and make them remotely accessible to owners and independent repair shops.
Maine becomes the second state, after Massachusetts, to approve such a law.
The statute also requires the state's attorney general to establish an independent entity to manage access to vehicle-generated mechanical data and ensure the data are secure. Auto makers also must equip vehicles that use telematics systems with an owner-authorized access platform, which communicates all vehicle mechanical data and is available via a mobile app.
Supporters — such as the Auto Care Association (ACA), Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality, Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone — argued the initiative was needed because more vehicles are transmitting real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly to automakers and their dealerships, which could make it harder for independent repair shops to fix vehicles.
“The result of last night’s election in Maine proved another victory for the American consumer and the right to repair movement that is gaining support across the United States,” ACA President Bill Hanvey said.
“The right to repair is one of a few unifying issues our nation faces, and whether we achieve repair access chamber by chamber or state by state, I am confident that every American will soon have the fundamental right to repair what belongs to them. Right to repair isn’t going away and this victory demonstrates that it’s an issue that needs to be resolved.”
Tommy Hickey, director of the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee, added: "By voting yes, … Mainers have now joined Massachusetts in a growing national movement to update automotive right-to-repair laws for the modern age of connected cars.
“Auto makers are trying to monopolize the market on car and truck repairs, but their customers, the voters, are acting overwhelmingly to put the brakes on them.”
Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tire & Service of Auburn, Maine, noted: “This victory ensures that Maine families will continue to be able to rely on their local repair shop, who knows them and their vehicle and provides great value.”
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents major auto makers such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., opposed the initiative and said the Nov. 4 election results were "disappointing but hardly surprising."
"Out-of-state, big-box auto retailers — that don't speak for independent auto repairers — spent nearly $5 million trying to scare Mainers into thinking that the right-to-repair their vehicles was going away," John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said in a statement.
"It will not go away," he continued. "Automotive right-to-repair already exists. Mainers can get their vehicle repaired anywhere, anytime, anyplace. That was true yesterday, and it's true today and tomorrow."
The alliance has argued there is no "telematics loophole" that prevents independent repair shops from accessing information needed to diagnose and repair vehicles, according to a fact sheet.
The Massachusetts measure — passed by voters there overwhelmingly in 2020 — revised and expanded the state's existing right-to-repair law by requiring auto makers with sales operations in Massachusetts to equip vehicles that use telematics systems with a standardized, open-access data platform, beginning with the 2022 model year.
It gives vehicle owners and independent repair shops access to real-time information from the telematics, such as crash notifications, remote diagnostics and navigation.
Weeks after Massachusetts voters approved the proposal, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation filed a federal lawsuit, asking the court to find the law "unenforceable because it is unconstitutional and … conflicts with federal laws."
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock has delayed ruling on the nearly 3-year-old lawsuit at least six times.
In Maine, the alliance pushed for an alternative ballot measure that would codify into law the provisions of the 2014 national memorandum of understanding between auto makers and the independent repair industry.
The 2014 deal, which came about after Massachusetts passed its own automotive right-to-repair law in 2013, purported to give shops in all states the same access to diagnostic and repair information that auto makers make available to their authorized dealership networks.
"The [Maine] legislature should examine this referendum in 2024 and consider legislation to codify the national cooperation agreement that already exists — and has worked well for a decade — between independent repairers and automakers," Bozzella said.