The Automotive Repair Council of Australia (ARCA) national committee recently convened to deliberate on the ongoing complaints regarding lack of access to service and repair information for independent repairers. All were astounded to hear of the difference between the day to day experiences of independent repairers in the USA compared to those of their Australian counterparts.
The remarkable level of co-operation and goodwill between the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers and America’s 140,000 independent repairers was witnessed first-hand by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) during a recent visit to the USA by Lesley Yates, Senior Manager Government Relations & Advocacy.
Ms Yates reported to ARCA on her impressions of repair and service information disclosure in the USA, after listening to detailed presentations from major vehicle manufacturers, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Porsche, Volkswagen Group and Subaru. Each of these major car companies provided updates on repair and service information data sharing and the implementation of “pass-thru technology” using universal scan tools (JS2534).
It was very clear from discussions with the US Auto Care Association and the scan tool industry, that vehicle manufacturers in the United States have made significant and measurable progress in providing independent automotive repairers with diagnostic, servicing and repair data.
The USA system works for consumers because it is founded on the Massachusetts Law and states that all repair information that is provided to the dealers will also be provided to independent repairers. Fast forward just three years and in what can accurately be described as the exact opposite to the situation in Australia, most of the world’s vehicle manufacturers are not only complying, but many are in fact well ahead of the agreed timelines for the sharing of data with America’s independent automotive repairers.
“The impressive level of progress made in providing servicing, repair and general vehicle data access since the Massachusetts Right to Repair law was enacted has been extraordinary,” Ms Yates stated.
“These are the exact same car companies that operate in Australia, yet the attitude here towards the fair sharing of vehicle data with independent repairers is totally the opposite. What is even more impressive is that the USA vehicle manufacturers appeared to be very proud of their commitment to provide independent repairers with the most efficient online platforms and help desk services,” Ms Yates added.
According to Mike Smith, Convenor of the Automotive Repairers Council of Australia (ARCA), there seems to be a major disconnect between the very same car companies on this side of the world when it comes to data sharing with independent repairers.
“We are delighted to see the outstanding progress that has been made in the United States with vehicle manufacturers sharing full dealer level data in such a short timeframe. To see these companies actually competing with each other to provide the best platforms, training and support to independent repairers is astounding. This ensures that their customers, the vehicle owners, are always taken care of no matter where they take their car for servicing and repairs,” Mr Smith stated.
“Unfortunately this is not the case in Australia. What these very same car companies say on this side of the world is “it can’t be done” or “it shouldn’t be done”- even refusing to supply vehicle data when independent repairers are willing to pay for it. For some reason, the car companies here are vehemently against what their American colleagues are actually championing. This just doesn’t make any sense,” Mr Smith added.
In Australia, the Federal Government commissioned the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to examine the issue of the disclosure of automotive repair and service information in the Australian market. Their interim report is due by mid-year, with a final report to be presented at the end of 2017.
The AAAA has supported the ACCC with the supply of detailed industry information and case studies for their report, to highlight the importance of vehicle data sharing to best serve the motorists of Australia.
Remarkably, this is a point that resonates with the opinion of global car company management identities, several of whom stated that they agreed data sharing is “the best way to look after our customers and promote the reputation of our brands.” According to the AAAA, this attitude reversal would not have occurred in the USA without the Massachusetts Law.
In the USA car companies now share exactly the same data their dealers receive with independent repairers. This information is available on a fee-for-subscription basis. Many of these car companies have even established contact systems dedicated to dealing with enquiries from independent repairers.
The success of the US Right to Repair campaign and the complete change in attitude of the American car industry, encourages the AAAA to continue its efforts to ensure that the same vehicle data sharing outcome is achieved here in Australia. This will provide true value and benefits to vehicle owners, while enabling independent automotive repairers to compete on a far more level playing field.
 In 2013, the Massachusetts Right to Repair law was enacted, obligating vehicle manufacturers to provide the same information, tools and software that they provide to their own dealers to the independent sector. Following this legislation, in 2014 a nationwide Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the American aftermarket industry and all vehicle manufacturers who agreed to adhere to the Massachusetts Right to Repair law across the remaining 50 states of the country.