BOSTON | When Mary Burke
recently took her 2007 Honda
Element with its worn-out ignition switch to her regular repair shop,
the mechanic didn't have the software to fix the problem.
shop's owner, Glenn Wilder,
said he had to take Miss Burke's
car to a Honda
dealership because those are the only places Honda
releases the computer software he needed. Miss Burke
said she paid much more for the repair than she would have at Wilder's
shop and was without her car for a day.
"I was totally frustrated
and upset with the whole situation and the way Honda
had a stranglehold on how Glenn had
to do it," said Miss Burke,
who lives in Marshfield, 30 miles southeast of Boston.
mom-and-pop repair shops like Wilder Brothers American
Car Care Center in Scituate, Mass., are pushing a bill that would
require auto manufacturers to provide, at a price, all the diagnostic
and software information they make available to their dealerships.
would become the first state to approve the so-called auto
"right-to-repair" law. The state Senate recently
passed it, and it's pending in the House. Industry observers say
passage of the bill in Massachusetts could drive similar legislative
efforts in other states.
Car dealers and manufacturers, including Honda,
have vigorously opposed the right-to-repair bill on the federal level
and in other states, such as New Jersey and Arizona. They say the push
for the bill isn't about consumers, but about auto parts.
spokesman for the Alliance
of Automobile Manufacturers, an association of 11 vehicle
manufacturers, including Chrysler
Group LLC, Ford Motor
Co. and General
Motors Co., said aftermarket-parts companies are seeking information
that would enable them to make inexpensive parts in foreign countries
without incurring research-and-development costs.
"This is a
thinly veiled attempt by parts manufacturers to lower the cost of
remanufacturing original equipment of manufacturer parts," alliance
spokesman Charles Territo said. "Once this information is released, that
intellectual property will be in China by the end of the month."
supporters of the bill say it's about giving consumers choices.
pay a lot of money for cars, and they should be able to choose where
they can get them repaired," said Art Kinsman,
spokesman for the Right to Repair
Coalition, which represents more than 1,000 Massachusetts mechanics
supporting the legislation.
Midsize and large repair shops also have said they would benefit from
a right-to-repair law.
Every day, mechanics at Direct Tire and
Auto Service's four locations get a handful of cars they can't fix, so
customers are sent to dealers, CEO Barry Steinberg said.
"If I had
the same equipment, it would mean more business for me and help me
serve more customers' needs," he said.
But not all repair shops
agree the state needs to change the current system.
Savignac, co-owner of Paxton Garage in Paxton, said he uses
subscriptions to websites that provide answers to any repair questions
Independent repair shops can access repair information
from services such as ALLDATA, a leading software provider, and the
National Automotive Service Task Force, which says it was established to
increase the availability and accessibility of auto-service
information, training, diagnostic tools and equipment for auto-service
Savignac said he's concerned that the system in place now will be
damaged by new legislation.
"We have something that works," Mr.
Savignac said. "We don't need something that may not."
bill doesn't require manufacturers to make repair information available
to aftermarket-parts companies. The bill also says trade secrets don't
have to be revealed.
of the repair
coalition, dismissed criticism that repair shops are seeking any
"We do not want the blueprints," he said.
"We just want to be able to repair cars."