Light Duty: The Fight Over Right to Repair

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


“Everybody involved in this thing has a horse in the race, so to speak, but I think we’re on the right track,” he says. “I want to get something solid with teeth in it just to end the argument. Put it to rest so we can go on.”

Redding says the sooner R2R disappears the better for the industry, and he thinks that day is fast approaching.

“It’s dead,” he says. “It’s not going anywhere in the Congress. My biggest concern is the resources it’s taking out of the industry, when we’ve got bigger issues.”

Redding, Jr. says the independent repair marketplace has been damaged by Right to Repair efforts.

“Some of these distributors are telling folks, ‘The independent (shops) can’t repair your (vehicle),’” he says. “What does that do for us? We can repair the cars and our members are telling us cars are coming into bays and they’re repairing them and getting paid for it, and that’s the message we want to send. Not ‘We can’t repair cars because the OEM’s won’t give us the information,’ because that’s not true.”

END GAME

Redding, Jr. says this issue is not “David versus Goliath,” as portrayed by some, and that OEMs and independent repair shops have been mending fences in recent years—something that would be compromised by R2R legislation.

“It is important we protect the voluntary system we have today, because there is a lot more at stake than service information,” he says. “One of the biggest issues here for us is training, and we have a system now in place with NASTF that there’s a future for independent techs. New fuel and new engine technologies are coming into play, and every single climate or energy bill that rolls out of Congress has new funds for private sector and for public institutions to do new fuel and new engine technology research. We have to be prepared for that. If we’re in federal court suing the OEMs, what kind of voluntary relationship would we have with them then?”

“This isn’t about the OEMs trying to squeeze us out; this is about the OEMs seeing that we are an industry partner. We’re repairing cars, and they want us to repair them well. We want to get service information and tool information, but we’ve got to have the training. We need to be doing more (training) and partnering with (OEMs).”

Lowe says the whole issue boils down to competition—those who want it and those who don’t.

“(OEMs) and their dealers are making a lot more money off their service departments and parts than they are from the sales of the cars, so for anybody to think it’s in the manufacturer’s best interest not to maximize that area of their business is ignoring the facts of life, and we’re in competition with them,” he says. “(The information gap) is going to continue to get worse as there’s more innovation and changes. Until we’re on a total level playing field with them, and we have some guarantee that’s going to continue into the future, we’re not going anywhere.”

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