Legislation that could impact the automotive aftermarket in a number of ways makes up the brunt of our top news this week.
First, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized its approval for the chemical substance HFO-1234yf, commonly used for vehicle air conditioning systems. The refrigerant has been approved as a replacement for R-134a, which has been widely criticized for its negative impacts on the environment. Use of the “greener” HFO-1234yf, however, would be limited to professionals as indicated in the language of the EPA’s significant new use rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act for HFO-1234yf.
In other legislative news this week, the U.S. Senate voted to pass Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) America Invents Act (S. 23) in an 87-3 vote. Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Leahy, the U.S. patent system, which has not been changed for more than a half a century, needs to be updated if the U.S. is to compete effectively in the future. “China and the European Union are improving their patent laws. We cannot remain complacent. If we are going to win the global competition by out-innovating the rest of the world, we need a patent system that works in the 21st century,” Leahy said.
In previous Congresses, there have been Senate and House efforts to increase opportunities for automotive parts manufacturers to obtain automaker intellectual property. No related language was included in this legislation, according to the Automotive Service Association.
In the Oregon state legislature, the Right to Repair Act (HB 3243) was recently introduced. "This legislation is critical to motorists all over Oregon, but especially in rural areas," said Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, a chief sponsor of HB 3243. "If local repair shops don’t have fair access to information and tools to repair cars, motorists will be forced to drive miles to get those repairs at car dealerships." There are more than 2,500 independently owned auto repair shops in Oregon and an aftermarket industry that employs more than 25,000 Oregonians.
In other top news this week, many in the industry were surprised to learn that IndyCar’s sponsorship and supply contract with Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, parent company of the Firestone brand, would expire at the end of this racing season. Firestone has supplied tires to the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1996. It currently serves as the title sponsor and tire supplier for Firestone Indy Lights, the developmental series for drivers and teams striving to reach the top-level of open-wheel racing in North America.
Just before press time, IndyCar announced a new contract with Firestone, through which the brand will continue to serve as the sole tire supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series through the 2013 race season. The new agreement does not include support for Firestone Indy Lights. Firestone will remain title sponsor and tire supplier of the development series through 2011.
The final item in our recap of the week’s top news comes from Federal-Mogul, which recently introduced a new spark plug installation tool from its Champion brand. The Champion spark plug installation tool (No. CT700) is a 12-inch-long molded rubber adapter that securely holds the spark plug as the user reaches into the engine compartment and threads the plug into the cylinder head. Once the plug is hand-tight in the bore, the tool can easily be pulled out so the user can complete the job with a torque wrench. The new tool can be used with virtually any size spark plug, the company says. According to Federal-Mogul, the new tool speeds the job of spark plug replacement in even the tightest engine spaces, and helps prevent cross-threading of the plug and cylinder head. The new tool is available through leading distributors and retailers that carry Champion plugs.