Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What will the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right To Repair legislation do?

A: The legislation would provide car owners with the right to decide where and how they have their vehicle serviced, whether it is a new car dealer or independent service facility. Under the bill, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would develop regulations requiring car companies to share the same information and tools that they make available to their franchised dealers, with the independent service industry and car owners.

Q: Why do we need the legislation?

A: With the increased use of computers and electronics controlling nearly every system on late model vehicles, car companies now possess the ability to control access to the information and tools necessary for the independent service industry to stay competitive with the franchised new car dealers. Over two thirds of car owners patronize independent service facilities after their warranty has expired due to price, convenience and trust. Failure to enact Right to Repair could jeopardize the ability of car owners to choose where they have their vehicle serviced and likely would lead to increased repair costs and reduced convenience. Ultimately, car owners and many small businesses would be harmed.

Q: If the car companies are promising to make all information and tools available, why do we need legislation?

A: While AAIA and CARE applaud the promises made by the car companies, due to the past struggles with the vehicle manufacturers over this issue, we do not not feel comfortable putting America’s car owners and the future economic health of the independent aftermarket at the mercy of the promises made by the car companies. Yes, there has been significant progress since AAIA and other aftermarket groups began lobbying both Federal and State legislators and regulators to address this issue. Legislation passed in California and regulations promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring the car companies to maintain web sites with all emissions related service information have gone a long way toward making information conveniently available to the independent service facility. However, audits of the site by repair experts still indicate that non-emissions related information is not being provided. Further, independent service facilities attempting to resolve information or tool concerns with the manufacturers often takes days, weeks or even months. Most independent shops cannot wait that long and are often forced to send their customers to the dealer for the repair. The industry needs some form of legislation to ensure long-term affordable and efficient access to all information and tools.

Q: Isn't the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair legislation simply a way for parts manufacturers to obtain proprietary information from the car companies?

A: This is not true. Aftermarket parts manufacturers have been successfully producing replacement parts for decades. The industry expects to continue manufacturing and remanufacturing high-quality products long into the future without access to the car company’s proprietary blue prints. In fact, recent versions of the federal legislation have expressly included strong protections against the release of OE trade-secret information.

Q: Will the car companies stop cooperating and making this information available if this legislation passes?

A: The car companies have been making this statement, but in fact there already are regulations regarding emission related information and tools in place both in California and nationally. The result is that the car companies are now maintaining web sites that contain all of their emissions related information. The fact that the manufacturers would threaten to pull the information if this bill passes should call into question the car companies’ commitment to keeping their promise and to ensuring convenient and effective vehicle service for their customers.

Q: Is it true that if the car companies don’t keep their promise to make all information available, the aftermarket can always go back and get legislation?

A: Right to Repair legislation is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, but it has taken a number of years to get to this point. Should the manufacturers stop making information available, it could take years for the service industry to fully realize the situation and then to revitalize this lobbying effort. In the mean time our industry would be sending car owners back to the new car dealer in droves. The independent aftermarket industry cannot afford to take this risk.

Q: Isn’t a cooperative approach such as the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) always more effective than the legislative/regulatory approach?

A: A cooperative approach works only if both sides have something to gain and there is third party enforcement. Neither is the case here. . However, it is clear from statements made by the car companies that many of them only made this promise to avoid legislation. Once that threat goes away, we fear many will go back to their old ways. Further, the car companies and their dealers have become much more aggressive in marketing their parts and service to the car owner. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), even though dealership parts and service department sales comprise just 11.8 percent of typical dealer’s total sales, it contributes 48 percent of the total operating profit. New car sales make up 60 percent of total sales, but only contribute 35 percent of total profit. History has shown that the marketing and competitive interests of the manufacturers will override their current promise once the legislation has disappeared from their radar screen. In addition, while the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) is a noble effort for the service industry and the car companies to cooperatively resolve information issues, no car company is bound by its recommendations. Since NASTF is operated by the manufacturers and ASA, there is nothing to compel cooperation from a manufacturer if they choose not to make their tools and information available. A company that is not complying is not subject to any penalty and there is no oversight from a third party. Over the long term, the NASTF can only be effective with the threat of strict federal penalties backing it up. Once car companies know that they could be subject to federal action if they do not fully comply with information requests, the incentive for cooperation will be much greater.

Q: Which organizations are supporting this legislation?

A: Right to Repair legislation is supported by a wide range of aftermarket organizations including the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP), Automotive Parts Rebuilders Association (APRA), Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association (AERA), Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), National Grange, Service Station Dealers Association (SSDA), The 60 Plus Association and the Tire Industry Association (TIA). In addition, the legislation has the support of small business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and consumer groups such as AAA. One group opposes passage, the Automotive Service Association (ASA). ASA believes that the promises of the car companies will be sufficient to ensure future information sharing. For additional information on Right to Repair, go to www.aftermarket.org or contact Aaron Lowe at aaron.lowe@aftermarket.org.

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