R2R pact must say more on telematics

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by automakers that extends nationwide most of the provisions of the Massachusetts Right to Repair (R2R) law marks a positive development for the independent aftermarket. But more work needs to be done.

From the standpoint of independent shops, R2R rules are designed to ensure shops have access to the same information that carmakers provide to their dealers. The MOU goes into a lot of detail on how carmakers will make repair information available to the aftermarket (Go to VehicleServicePros.com and search “MOU.”)

There are some issues that need to be resolved, particularly regarding telematics. This is important because telematics is beginning to play a bigger role in repair information. Some observers claim the MOU does not clearly state how much access carmakers must provide to the independent aftermarket in regard to telematics.

If carmakers eventually use telematics to direct aftermarket work to their dealerships, the independent aftermarket could face its greatest competitive threat ever. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) has raised this concern at the last two AAPEX conventions.

According to Aaron Lowe, AAIA vice president of government affairs, the MOU addresses this concern to a degree. If a carmaker only makes diagnostic and repair information available telematically to their dealers, then they must make the same capability available to independents under the MOU. However, if the diagnostic and repair capabilities are available through diagnostic tools to be provided to independents under the MOU, then they don’t have to provide it telematically as well. This puts the aftermarket shop at a disadvantage as the car has to be in the shop before service needs can be diagnosed, whereas the dealer can offer service recommendations wherever the vehicle is. Clearly, this is a case where having the right tool with the right diagnostic information still puts you and your customer at a disadvantage.

The car owner has to have control over the data being generated by their vehicle in order to ensure that if they take the car to an independent shop, that independent shop can service the repair as effectively as an OE dealership.


The MOU needs fine-tuning

The aftermarket and carmakers need to build on the progress on R2R by amending the MOU to ensure that independent shops can offer telematics services similar to what the dealer can offer. As telematics dominate the handling of repair information, independent shops need to be part of carmakers’ repair information networks.

The parties need to do this sooner than later, lest they lose the momentum gained by the MOU and jeopardize the aftermarket’s ability to protect carmakers’ brand integrity.

Email me at Elliot.Maras@PTEN.com and let me know what you think.