National R2R agreement recognizes independent shops’ concerns for the time being

The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association announced last week that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with auto manufacturer organizations that extends nationwide the essential provisions of the Massachusetts Right to Repair (R2R) law. Massachusetts passed its R2R law in 2012 requiring car makers to make repair information available to independent shops on fair and reasonable terms. The requirements of both the Massachusetts law and the new, nationwide agreement become effective in 2018.

So what does this mean to independent repair shops?

This is not a simple issue.

I noted after the Massachusetts law passed in 2012 that independent repair shops have mixed views about R2R and that many feel there are more important issues for aftermarket organizations to address, such as the need for better technician training. Many shop owners did not believe the law will make them more competitive with OEM dealerships on repair work and many were skeptical of the R2R initiative.

In the wake of the agreement announced last week, the views of repair shop owners about R2R have not changed. While some shops support R2R, thinking it will give them more access to OEM repair information, others still have misgivings about its impact on their business.

Given this uncertainty, AAIA took a wise course of action in working with the auto manufacturers. (The agreement was signed by AAIA, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers and the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality.) The agreement addresses the need for independent repair shops to have the same access to the information, tools and software as OEM dealers to service late model computer-controlled vehicles as required under the Massachusetts R2R law.

By signing this agreement with the automakers, AAIA has for the time being avoided the expense of lobbying for national and state laws. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the automakers have agreed to make their aftermarket repair information, tools and software available to the independent aftermarket.

Based on the agreement, it’s safe to say that carmakers recognize the importance of making information, tools and software available to the independent aftermarket. It’s hard to see how this can be bad for independent repair shops.

In addition to avoiding a costly lobbying battle, the agreement gives the aftermarket a chance to see how well carmakers respond to the independent repair shop's need for access to information, tools and software without drawing unwanted attention to the independent aftermarket industry’s ability to service vehicles. Many shop owners have voiced concern that a public discussion on R2R as a consumer choice issue will reflect poorly on the capabilities of the independent aftermarket.

For the time being, the aftermarket and the automakers have agreed on a course of action that will hopefully improve the independent repair shop’s access to information, tools and software. The agreement reduces the need for a costly lobbying effort that would drain industry resources and possibly undermine the aftermarket’s reputation among consumers.