TO: AAIA Volunteer Leaders
FR: Aaron Lowe, Vice President, Government Affairs
RE: Massachusetts Right to Repair Ballot Question
You likely have heard by now that we have collected 106,658 signatures from voters in Massachusetts to have our right to repair ballot question included on the November 2012 ballot. Not only did we do this in 19 days, but we far exceeded the 69,911 signatures that are required by the state for ballot questions.
While the ballot question is gaining strong public support in Massachusetts, many independent shops around the country also are taking notice of the major change in the direction the right to repair debate is taking due to the ballot measure. The new approach in the measure seeks to address a key problem now facing independents -- the cost and practicality of obtaining the tools and information needed to repair late model computer controlled vehicles.
In short, while the right tools and software are often difficult to obtain, in many cases too, it’s also the expense of purchasing the latest hardware and software that really hurts a shop’s bottom line. Further, once a shop goes out on a financial limb, often in the tens of thousands of dollars, to purchase a new car company tool, it becomes rapidly outdated, requiring either an expensive software update, or worse, an entirely new tool.
The ballot question would make it possible for independent shops to obtain access to the latest car company’s diagnostic and repair software using a generic laptop that would be connected into a vehicle’s onboard computer, using a universal interface system. Specifically, the ballot measure would require beginning in 2015 that car companies:
- Maintain a site (such as a cloud) that contains the same software and repair capabilities that they provide through the proprietary tools to dealer franchises. The site would be accessible to anyone for a reasonable daily, weekly, monthly or yearly fee.
- Provide access to the site through a generic lap top that would be connected to a vehicle through a universal interface that meets the Society of Automotive Engineers J2534 standard.
The bottom line is that if this measure is approved, independent shops, with a minimum investment in tools, will be able to affordably obtain the tools and software to work on most makes and models of vehicles that are on the road. Further, it would ensure that the repair industry has access to the most up-to-date version of the diagnostic software and program updates made available by the car company to its franchised dealers.
Most importantly, the ballot measure will ensure that consumers will have the total freedom to find the shop that provides the most affordable, convenient and effective service for their motor vehicle and would not need to return to the dealer for certain types of service that are not affordable or in some cases accessible for many independent shops.
Clearly, the ballot question approach will require some changes in how many car companies make tools and information available to the repair industry. However, with the rapid technological changes that vehicles are currently experiencing, isn’t it critical that the methods used by technicians to repair these systems also keeps pace with technology?
I hope the above information is helpful in better understanding the effort AAIA and others are working on in Massachusetts. Please feel free to pass this information on to your colleagues who you think might be interested in this issue. For more information and to stay up to date on the latest developments in Massachusetts, go to the state’s right to repair website at www.massrighttorepair.com.