Calling modern vehicles “computers on wheels,” auto repair shop owners came to the State House Tuesday to lobby for a bill to require manufacturers to give them access to data so they can make repairs.
“This is about the ability to choose where you get your car repaired,” said Tommy Hickey, director of the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee. “This is about a level playing field for independent repair shops in Maine and having the ability to control the diagnostic repair information from a car that you bought and a car repair you will pay for.”
Car repair shop owners turned in more than 70,000 signatures to the state in January for the citizen-initiated bill. It would require vehicle manufacturers to turn over to independent repair shops the same diagnostic information they provide to dealerships.
If the measure is not passed by the Legislature, it will go before voters in November.
The so-called “right to repair” initiative by vehicle repair shops and parts suppliers is a bid to get access to wireless technology and other information they say is necessary to make repairs.
However, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents manufacturers who produce 98% of the cars and light trucks sold in the U.S., called the initiative “entirely unnecessary.”
That’s because the industry entered into an agreement with repair shops and parts suppliers in 2013 that guarantees access to diagnostic information, according Wayne Weikel, vice president of state affairs for the alliance.
“Automakers already make available to independent repair businesses all the information needed to diagnose and service a vehicle,” he said, according to prepared remarks.
The automotive alliance represents major manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda.
The alliance is behind a new bill released Tuesday that if passed, would appear alongside the right to repair bill on the November ballot.
“This important legislation would codify into Maine law all the protections necessary to ensure independent repair facilities continue to have access to the information necessary to successfully diagnose and safely repair a vehicle on fair and reasonable terms,” Weikel said.
Hickey said the competing measure leaves out much of the information they will need to make the repairs.
“It takes out the wireless information,” he said. “We believe as a coalition that wireless information should go directly to the owner, they should be the gatekeeper of that information versus the car manufacturer who has a monetary interest in holding on to that information.”