BOSTON — The Alliance for Automotive Innovation is suing in federal court to overturn on constitutional grounds a recently enacted ballot measure in Massachusetts that expands access to data related to vehicle maintenance and repair.
Starting with the 2022 model year, the updated "right to repair" law requires makers of vehicles sold in Massachusetts to equip vehicles that use telematics systems — which collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server — with a standardized, open-access data platform.
It also gives vehicle owners and independent repair shops access to real-time information from the telematics such as crash notifications, remote diagnostics and navigation.
The law is scheduled to take effect Dec. 3. The Alliance said auto makers, which can begin selling 2022 model-year vehicles as early as Jan. 2, 2021, could face "impossible compliance obstacles."
The Alliance, which represents most major auto makers and many suppliers in the U.S., also argues the new measure "makes personal driving data available to third parties with no safeguards to protect core vehicle functions and consumers' private information or physical safety."
In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the alliance is requesting the court find the law "unenforceable because it is unconstitutional and because it conflicts with federal laws." It also is asking the court to "temporarily and permanently enjoin enforcement" of the law.
In response, the Auto Care Association (ACA), one of the bill's backers, said it was "very disappointed to see this pattern of behavior from the vehicle manufacturers against the American people, who want the right to control their vehicle mechanical data and to share it with their independent repair shops.
“Over the last several years, the Auto Care Association has joined with cyber security experts to develop international standards that could be readily implemented and will permit the cyber-secure sharing of data," the trade group said.
"Further, we have offered to work with the manufacturers to adopt these standards in order to ensure competition for their customers. However, instead of working to find common ground, the manufacturers have continued to engage in a scare campaign regarding access to wireless mechanical data, aimed first at voters and now the courts. Just like Massachusetts voters, we trust that the courts will see through the manufacturers’ scare tactics and will throw out this baseless lawsuit.”
Voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure in November, with 75% voting in its favor. The highly contested ballot question pitted independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers against most major automakers, with both sides spending millions to tilt voters.
Massachusetts' right to repair law — enacted in 2013 and adopted a year later as a national standard by auto makers and independent garages and retailers — mandates vehicle owners and independent repair shops have access to the same diagnostic and repair data that automakers make available to their franchised dealerships and certified repair facilities.
Supporters, such as the Auto Care Association and O'Reilly Auto Parts, said the ballot measure closes a loophole in the current law that exempts data transmitted wirelessly through telematics while giving vehicle owners more choice and control over the information.
Representatives from the aftermarket car industry see the Massachusetts win as the basis for launching a campaign toward national adoption of vehicle owner rights.
Critics, including the alliance and most major automakers, said the measure is a "data grab" by independent repair shops and big-box aftermarket parts stores and poses cybersecurity, personal safety and privacy risks to vehicle owners.