Light Duty: The Fight Over Right to Repair

The "Right to Repair" debate is still very much alive in the industry.


Gorman says many complaints are not R2R issues, but training-related.

“The problem is there is little knowledge that this information even exists,” he says. “People (are) afraid if they pay their $25 for the (repair) information, then they won’t be able to complete the repair. Just like any business, you have to invest in the training, in the equipment and you have to understand what you’re getting into before you get into it. And until we improve that situation, the aftermarket’s always going to have a beef.”

FILLING A NEED

Gorman says NASTF does not have a position on Right to Repair, but he hopes their work will be able to produce enough results so the legislation is not needed.

“There has to be a group of experts to decide whether or not something should be provided or not be provided, and those experts will not be found in government, they will be found within the people who actually use the information and produce it,” he says. “So an organization like ours needs to exist, regardless.”

As in many arguments, neither “side” is right in the R2R debate, Gorman says.

“The Right-to-Repair folks think NASTF is useless, and it’s not; we’ve been very successful on certain fronts,” he says. “Our work is not done, though, so the people who are on the other side of the fence that say NASTF is 100 percent successful and there’s no need for any pressure or anything like that, that’s not true either.”

The task force’s goal, says Gorman, is to come up with documents that the OEMs sign that “basically say they are going to play ball to the same level as if we had legislation.” He said members are working on that project, which would replace the current ASA-OEM agreement and hopefully remove any need to legislation.

“It’s a slow process, but we’re pretty far along,” he says. “Of course, we have to sell them to the OEMs. That doesn’t mean (OEMs) are not cooperating, but our goal from the beginning was to put this formal piece together—not necessarily for our purposes, but to satisfy the Right-to-Repair side.”

While he can understand concerns about OEMs not living up to non-legally binding agreements, Gorman thinks manufacturers have gone too far to turn back.

“The information you get in a manual and the technical service bulletins—I’m 99.99 percent satisfied they already provide everything,” he says. “We have not been able to find one instance where they don’t already provide the information. It’s more the subtle stuff that’s not described in the Right To Repair Act where if there are issues, they exist, and that’s being able to produce aftermarket tools that emulate the OEM tools, the OEM tools themselves, which are not always easy to get, and the security side—in other words, being able to finish the job at your site without driving or towing the vehicle to a dealership to get re-initialized.”

LEGISLATIVE ROADBLOCK

Right to Repair has been brought up every year since 2001, but Lowe says support is waning in the face of strong opposition from OEMs and dealer networks.

“They do strongly fund campaigns, and our industry is typically not as strong in that area,” he says. “We’re still hopeful we’ll get a bill through in the not-too-distant future. There’s a great possibility we could see legislations in the states before the federal effort, and so we’re working in any area we think is reasonable to try to get this bill done. It’s critical to the future of our industry, we think.”
If Right to Repair is left to die on the vine, Lowe says it will not be long before independent repair shops feel the pain.

“You’re not going to see every shop go out of business tomorrow,” Lowe says. “What our concern is, over the long term, is that this will continue to eat into the customer base of our independent shops.”

Gorman says while the possibility of legislation never goes away, if there were serious problems between OEMs and aftermarket repair shops, there would be a unanimous call to action against the manufacturers. He says he would prefer a more binding agreement between the two sides that does not involve political or legal action.

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