Many repair shops, especially those who choose and pay to be part of those certified networks, say they have no trouble finding the information they need to fix cars even before this week’s deal. Michael Bradshaw, vice president of K&M Collision in Hickory, North Carolina, and vice president of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, one of the groups that signed the new agreement, says his shop pays off 30 automaker certification programs to keep up. including for Kia, General Motors, Bentley and Rivian.
In a way, Bradshaw agrees with the right-to-reparation advocates: This week’s deal doesn’t give him anything he didn’t already have. “If there is data and repair information, we have always been able to get it,” says Bradshaw. But he disagrees that it’s a problem that repairers have to pay, sometimes dearly, to get the tools, certifications and information they need to fix cars.
Bradshaw thinks it’s fair that he should pay for automaker certification programs because developing auto technology—and the documentation needed to fix it—costs the automaker a lot of money. He is willing to pay whatever it takes to make a safe and effective repair. “If it was a situation where there was no cost for access, you’ll see the information suffer,” he says, as automakers will be less likely to spend resources creating clear information for repairers. “The companies that struggle to pay for the data they need are the same companies that don’t invest in training or equipment.”
Other repairers worry that without an industry-wide overhaul that forces automakers to standardize and open up their data, automakers will find ways to limit access to repair information or push customers to their own dealer networks to boost profits. They say that if car owners had clear and direct ownership of the data generated by their vehicles – without going through specialized automaker tools or systems – they could use it themselves to diagnose and repair a car, or to authorize the repair shop of their choice. to do the job. “My fear, if no one gives some stronger guidance, is that I know automakers are going to monetize auto data in a way that’s prohibitively expensive for us to access,” said Dwayne Myers, co-owner of Dynamic Automotive, an auto repair company with various locations in Maryland.
“You have to think not only about what the situation is now, but also what the situation will be like in five or 10 years,” says Roberts, the right-to-reparation attorney. “It’s easier to handle this now, in the early days.”
Perhaps the new agreement was designed just before a right-to-repair hearing by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on intellectual property and the Internet. A bipartisan group of representatives has already tabled bills on the subject.
The hearing follows national bickering over a Massachusetts law passed by a 2020 ballot that gave state car owners more control over the data generated by their cars. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation sued the state over the law, preventing lawmakers from enforcing it, and a judge has yet to rule on the case. But last month, the Massachusetts attorney general announced she would penalize automakers who withheld data because they failed to comply. Days later, the U.S. Department of Transportation warned automakers not to comply with the Massachusetts law, citing concerns that it would hack vehicles. The letter appeared to contradict the Biden administration’s previous commitments regarding the right to repair.
Brian Weiss, a spokesman for the Alliance, declined to comment on the Massachusetts law, citing ongoing litigation. But how or if the new agreement will affect other states’ right-to-repair policies is up to policymakers, he says. It connects the trade groups that have signed on to push for federal rules defining the right to repair and against state legislation, which could create a patchwork of laws with different obligations for do-it-yourselfers or independent repairers. That echoes an agreement signed earlier this year by tractor manufacturer John Deere and a major agricultural trade group, which proponents say did not give farmers clear access to the tools and software needed to repair their farm equipment.
Myers, the Maryland-based independent repairer, says that today, when customers take ownership of their car’s data, it gives them “the right to choose where to have their car repaired” in the first place. But he has also set his sights on the future. “Along the way, we’ll find out what automakers collect,” he says — and why. He would rather establish the right of car owners to check that information now, before they discover too late that it is being used in a way they don’t like.