Repairer Driven News
« Back « PREV Article  |  NEXT Article »

Independent auto repairers, OEMs strike ‘landmark’ R2R pact

By on
Collision Repair | Legal
Share This:

In response to right to repair (R2R) developments across the U.S. and Canada, three groups that represent thousands in the automotive and collision repair industries have come together as a coalition to step up to Congress with a pact they say will benefit vehicle owners through continued access to repair information.

Calling it a landmark agreement on automotive R2R, the Automotive Service Association (ASA), Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), and Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) affirm a 2014 national memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding R2R that, in part, states, “independent repair facilities shall have access to the same diagnostic and repair information that auto manufacturers make available to authorized dealer networks.”

In its joint letter sent to Congress today, the coalition wrote, “This commitment was created with our mutual and valued customers in mind: vehicle owners. It affirms that consumers deserve access to safe and proper repairs throughout a vehicle’s lifecycle [and] it is built to last because it anticipates changes in automotive technologies and market evolutions.”

The agreement became effective when the letter signed by the coalition was sent to Congress.

Proponents of R2R initiatives have taken the position that independent repairers, owners, and anyone not affiliated with a dealership or OEM are being restricted from access to information necessary to conduct repairs. Auto Innovators has long shot down that argument pointing back to the MOU.

As state legislatures — largely Massachusetts and Maine — and Congress consider automotive R2R laws, including the re-introduced REPAIR Act, the coalition notes in its letter that, “…independent repairers and automakers are not at odds on automotive data access but rather in lockstep on this fundamental principle: consumers should have choice when it comes to repair options and the ability to have their vehicle serviced in well-equipped shops by well-trained technicians anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

Supporters of the REPAIR Act claim it would ensure access to “all tools and equipment; wireless transmission of repair and diagnostic data; and access to on-board diagnostic and telematic systems needed to repair a vehicle.”

In a memo last year, Auto Innovators, which represents the majority of all automakers, addressed a telematics ballot initiative in Maine stating, “Automotive right to repair already exists and always will. …Automakers agree and support numerous initiatives to facilitate seamless independent auto service and repair.”

In March of this year, 28 state attorney generals banded together to support three “right to repair” federal bills to ensure “small automobile businesses and “mom-and-pop” auto shops can remain competitive against a closed system favored by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).”

In a letter written to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the AGs requested lawmakers redouble their efforts to pass the legislation.

Auto Innovators President and CEO John Bozzella said in a statement regarding the newly penned agreement with ASA and SCRS that, “Automakers support right to repair, and today’s independent auto repair market is working well with lots of competition.”

“Auto repairers across the U.S. have access to the same repair and diagnostic information provided to auto dealers. It’s not just automakers who say this. It’s the Federal Trade Commission. And with today’s agreement, it’s also the thousands of independent auto repairers and small businesses in all 50 states who together with automakers have once again made this fundamental commitment to customers.”

The coalition wants Congress to know that automotive R2R already exists — a sentiment already pointed out several times by Auto Innovators and its OEM members as well as SCRS.

“The Federal Trade Commission, the government’s top consumer protection and competition agency, has rightfully placed a focus on the repair options available to consumers for all the products they purchase — far beyond just automobiles,” the letter states. “They have previously highlighted the automotive repair marketplace as a model for other industries to follow, noting it is ‘working well.’ We agree!

“Seventy percent of post-warranty vehicle repairs today happen outside the dealer network, while automakers’ own certified collision networks are comprised of shops that are more than 70 percent non-dealer owned. In other words, competition is alive and well in the auto repair industry.”

The letter and agreement also note that was created by automakers for repair technicians to easily and quickly find repair and diagnostic information on most vehicles.

Scott Benavidez, ASA board chairman and owner of Mr. B’s Paint & Body Shop, said the association has been a steadfast advocate for the right of independent repair shops to vehicle service information since before the 2002 service information agreement it signed with automakers.

“Since then, the cars Americans rely on have become increasingly sophisticated, and the rate of innovation will only accelerate. The way vehicle issues are diagnosed and repaired evolves in tandem with advancement. ASA is proud to have reached this new agreement with automakers because it ensures ASA members can diagnose and repair their customers’ vehicles without hindrance from telematics nor any other innovation. Most importantly, it maintains a competitive repair market that yields the highest quality safety outcomes at a fair price for drivers.”

Key points agreed to in the letter center on diagnostic and repair information access, education and training, and future advancements.

The coalition agrees that independent repair facilities and vehicle owners will continue to have access to — through fair and reasonable purchasing terms — the same diagnostic and repair information that OEMs make available to authorized dealer networks. That includes service manuals and technical repair updates, telematics data needed for diagnosis and repair for all vehicle technologies and powertrains from gasoline, diesel, and fuel cell to electric battery, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid electric.

The latter agreement addresses arguments made that the MOU is outdated and doesn’t apply to wireless in-vehicle data, such as telematics.

However, equal telematics access doesn’t apply to data beyond what is necessary to diagnose and repair a vehicle, according to the agreement.

Perhaps the most impactful portion of the agreement is the creation of a non-proprietary vehicle interface device that can be used to access vehicle diagnostic systems that comply with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard J2534 (commonly referred to as SAE J2534), the International Organization for Standardization standard 22900 (commonly referred to as ISO 22900), or any successor to both standards by the society or organization.

Traditionally, access is reached through OBD-II ports in vehicles but the more technology advances, the less common the ports are becoming and don’t exist at all in electric vehicles (EVs) since they are only required under SAE J2534 for tailpipe emissions monitoring. The successor to the standard, SAE J2534-2, led to the 2014 automaker MOU on the equal right to repair.

The coalition agrees that access to in-vehicle diagnostic systems can also be obtained through an onboard diagnostic and repair data system that is integrated and self-contained within the vehicle including, but not limited to, onboard display diagnostic or service information.

Also, direct access to onboard diagnostic and repair data will be gained through a non-proprietary vehicle interface like ethernet, universal serial bus, or digital versatile disc as long as the OEM of the vehicle being repaired has given access to the same onboard diagnostic, repair data, and functions to their dealers.

The groups told Congress they pledge to work together on facilitating education and training programs so mechanical and collision repair shops are “fully aware of exactly where and how to obtain repair information, including through automaker repair websites, shared access points like, and third-party information providers, software, and tools.

Moving forward into the future, as vehicle technologies and repairs evolve, the coalition says their commitment to equal repair information, software, and tools “ensures a level playing field and a forum to discuss future repairer needs as they develop.”

“Automotive technology continues to advance, with nearly every vehicle now equipped with advanced safety features and increasingly efficient propulsion systems. Repairers meet this challenge every day through investments in training and equipment…

“Collectively, we recognize the importance of providing a wide range of repair options to meet the needs of our shared customers throughout the lifecycle of a vehicle. This renewed commitment should give policymakers full confidence that repairers and manufacturers are committed to cooperation and allied on this shared goal.”

Amber Alley, SCRS board chairman and Barsotti’s Body and Fender manager, said consumers should be able to choose quality repairs under procedures laid out by vehicle engineers.

“They should have the right to be able to do so in an independent repair facility that has invested in the training, equipment, and skillset development to meet the rigorous demands of sophisticated, modern vehicles,” she said. “This expectation is achievable, and consumer options for repairs are not limited by automakers; quite the contrary. Consumers should have the right to a proper and safe repair, and this agreement reinforces the commitment that the entire industry will have the ability to train, equip their facilities, and perform repairs as intended by the vehicle engineers.”

The coalition says it will review the agreement every year and update it as needed.

It also stipulates that a Vehicle Data Access Panel (VDAP) will be formed to hear issues a party might have about the availability of diagnostic data and repair information as pledged in the agreement and collaborate on potential solutions where feasible. VDAP will initially be made up of ASA, SCRS, and Auto Innovators representatives with members added at any time. It will meet, at a minimum, twice a year.


Featured image credit: Douglas Rissing/iStock

Share This: