Vehicle data access: The fight for our industry's livelihood

April 27, 2020
Digitalization and connectivity could have a significant impact on the aftermarket’s ability to remain competitive and enduring.

As we begin a new decade, grateful and optimistic for fresh starts, it’s important to pause and recognize the changing dynamics afoot in the auto industry. Digitalization and connectivity, AVs and EVs, increased consumer expectations, and a shifting competitive environment could greatly affect the future of the independent auto care industry. However, digitalization and connectivity represent the biggest and most immediate threat. These rapidly evolving advancements could have significant impact on the aftermarket’s ability to remain competitive and enduring.

Vehicles today are more than just vehicles. They are data collection resources.

There are nearly 69 million connected vehicles on the road today; by 2022, 87 percent of new vehicles in the United States will be equipped with wireless technology that transmits vehicle data (i.e., telematics) in real-time, according to IHS Markit forecasts.

Starting with the 2015 models, all new vehicles come with wireless technology that generates 25 GB of data per hour, according to McKinsey estimates. This includes data on driving behavior, GPS location, and important diagnostics such as maintenance and repair information, among others.

The advent of wireless technology has given vehicle manufacturers more opportunities than ever to monopolize data. Under the guise of safety and security, manufacturers are wirelessly collecting important maintenance and repair data, making them the gatekeepers of information tied directly to jobs of auto care industry technicians.

Vehicle manufacturers could obtain exclusive access to and control of vehicle data, manage the value chain throughout the auto care industry ecosystem and wall off independent technicians from vehicle data entirely, creating a system of “winners” and “losers”. This potential monopolization of vehicle data positions vehicle manufacturers to alter the auto care industry landscape and threaten the independent aftermarket that makes up more than 70 percent of vehicle repair and maintenance.

And as more connected vehicles hit the road and corresponding digital services expand, additional volumes of data are captured; it’s easy to see how this could quickly put the entire independent auto care industry in peril.

The impact on the auto care industry is substantial. Though it generates $392 billion in revenue each year and supports 4.6 million American jobs, those figures could dip significantly, as independent repair shops starve from lack of data access and are rendered noncompetitive. If independent technicians are unable to directly access maintenance and repair data, it means lost revenue, a smaller customer base, and fewer opportunities to innovate products, technology, and services.

Simply put, our industry’s livelihood is at stake.

Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice.

The idea of locking the auto care industry out of work, the loss of consumer choice and reduced competition for repair and maintenance services, and potentially losing good-paying jobs sparked the formation of the Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice. education and advocacy campaign. This effort, aimed at increasing industry and consumer awareness on the realities of modern vehicle data and the implications of not having access or control of vehicle data, enjoyed great success in 2019, including an op-ed in The New York Times and the endorsements of several NHRA and NASCAR drivers.

According to McKinsey estimates, vehicle data could be worth as much as $750 billion by 2030. As digitalization and automotive IoT continues to disrupt the auto industry, vehicle manufacturers looking for new revenue sources would love to exploit vehicle data. Nevertheless, the independent aftermarket certainly will fight hard for consumers. 

But we can’t do it alone: you and your customers play a critical role in our movement to ensure drivers have the right to directly access and control their car data.

The problem Your Car. Your Data. aims to solve is straightforward: three-quarters of American consumers — your customers — do not know about vehicle data or why it’s important they control who has access to their information. This vast majority of consumers are largely ignorant to the enormous quantity of information their vehicles produce — let alone who owns this data and can access it. And this issue poses significant implications for your customers: Aside from losing their relationship with their trusted independent mechanic, mandatory trips to manufacturer-controlled shops would mean more money spent to service their vehicle. Having to go to dealerships will mean longer wait times and traveling to inconvenient locations. As a result, customers may delay or ignore safety-critical repairs or services.

Our argument is simple: consumers should be able to choose the price, person, and place they want to perform repair and maintenance services. Yet this issue is not even on the radar of the majority of American drivers.

However, a concerted effort to spread awareness is underway. Your Car. Your Data. enters the new year with continued momentum and more supporters joining the movement each day. Despite this positive news, the auto care industry must remain united and focused on securing consumer control of vehicle data. The future of our industry relies on each of us sounding the alarm with customers and articulating why it matters.

Your role in the fight to preserve our industry

While celebrity spokespersons and industry leaders may garner newspaper headlines on Your Car. Your Data., the most meaningful progress achieved is in personal, one-on-one conversations between shop owners, point of sales representatives or technicians and their customers. This is where everyone in the auto care industry can play a role, but especially technicians at the nearly 180,000 independent repair shops nationwide.

Personal relationships are the lifeblood of our industry—and your customers trust you. A few conversations with a handful of loyal customers could produce additional allies in our fight for data access and control.

Your Car. Your Data. provides, free of charge, a variety of materials for technicians and other industry employees to share with customers or use when engaging with them about the data access and control issue. In addition to those available materials, the following are two quick and easy actions you can take today to demonstrate support.

Encourage your customers to sign the consumer data access and control petition at yourcaryourdata.org. If they’re short on time, have them scan the QR code below to go directly to the petition.  
  • Use the materials available to you at autocare.org/telematics and aftermaketsuppliers.org/CarData, like the Vehicle Data fact sheet or the Technician one-pager, to learn more about the issue and provide you with the materials necessary to engage with your customers.
  • Most drivers are unaware of just how much data their vehicles produce and how important repair and maintenance data is to you. It’s vital that we inform them of the implications of this issue and provide them with the opportunity to join our fight.

    It ain’t over till it’s over

    Americans can take heart in the fact that a robust, thriving movement is already underway. By signing the consumer data access and control petition*, contacting their representatives in government, and spreading the message by word of mouth, drivers and industry advocates across the country can continue to fuel this growing movement. Vehicle manufacturers are relying on consumer ignorance, silence, and apathy as they look to control drivers’ vehicle data; the Your Car. Your Data. campaign represents a crucial countervailing force.

    J.P. Morgan once said, “The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”

    The changing dynamics our industry faces represent threats, but also opportunities. Now is the time for us to go on offense, speak out, and stand together to ensure the auto care industry remains competitive and a choice for consumers. The status quo and inaction aren’t options if our industry wants to play a leading role in shaping the digital auto care ecosystem.

    The strength of Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice.  will come from numbers. Fight for the livelihood of your industry. Join our movement and sign the petition today. Then, spread the word by engaging your customers. We welcome your support.

    About the Author

    Bill Hanvey | President and CEO, Auto Care Association

    Bill Hanvey is the President and CEO, Auto Care Association. Prior to becoming president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, Hanvey served as SVP of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA). 

    About the Author

    Paul McCarthy | President and COO, Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA)

    Paul T. McCarthy is the President and COO of Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA). As AASA’s top executive, he is focused on its mission – to champion the aftermarket industry and the business interests of its members – and its vision to support a high-growth, profitable, innovative and influential aftermarket supplier industry.

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