NHTSA Affirms Right to Repair Support; Disagreement Remains

NHTSA Affirms Right to Repair Support; Disagreement Remains

Aftermarket associations say a short-range wireless protocol is insufficient to provide customers with repair choice.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) penned a letter to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office expressing its support for Right to Repair and the Massachusetts Data Access Law this week. In the letter, the agency expresses its appreciation for working with the attorney general’s office to “identify a way that the Massachusetts Data Access Law may be successfully implemented—promoting consumers’ ability to choose independent or do-it-yourself repairs— without compromising safety. We write to confirm our mutual understanding of that path forward.”

In the letter, NHTSA affirms its concerns about safety if vehicle telematics functions were disabled, as it said in its June 13th letter. The agency said this would be a disservice to vehicle owners and reiterated that it will continue to evaluate safety programs and protocols as technology evolves to comply with Massachusetts Data Access Law. NHTSA also said thanks to conversations with the attorney general’s office, it understands ways vehicle manufacturers can comply with the Data Access Law, which includes “providing independent repair facilities wireless access to a vehicle within close physical proximity to the vehicle, without providing long-range remote access.”

“NHTSA values the dialogue with the Massachusetts Attorney General toward achieving the dual goals of consumer choice in repair facilities and vehicle safety, and looks forward to continued dialogue to help ensure that vehicle manufacturers safely and expeditiously comply with their obligations under the Data Access Law and the Federal Vehicle Safety Act,” the letter said.

To view the full text of the letter, click here.

Automotive aftermarket organizations commended NHTSA’s letter as a step forward in identifying the need to address protocols for the open access implementation of the Massachusetts Data Access Law. MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers said while it supports NHTSA and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s goals of consumer choice in repair facilities and vehicle safety, a short-range wireless protocol is insufficient to provide consumers with repair choice and stakeholders with a level playing field going forward.

“The letter from NHTSA underscores the imperative for a 50-state solution that ensures both consumer choice in repair and enhanced safety on our roads,” MEMA said in a statement. “Moreover, it emphasizes the need for a cybersecure, technical solution that prioritizes consumers and is developed by and agreed to by all stakeholders.”

The Auto Care Association also applauded the continued support of the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General to support the Data Access Law and NHTSA’s willingness to revisit the enforceability of the law.

“The Auto Care Association is gratified by NHTSA’s acknowledgement that the Data Access Law is not preempted by the Federal Vehicle Safety Act and by its latest statement that NHTSA strongly supports the right to repair,” the association said. “The Auto Care Association further supports Attorney General Campbell’s stalwart efforts to ensure that vehicle manufacturers implement the Data Access Law safely and promptly. We look forward to the auto manufacturers’ compliance with the law.”

The Auto Care Association said as demonstrated by the court case around the 2020 Data Access Law [Alliance for Automotive Innovation v. Campbell, No. 20-cv-12090 (D. Mass.)], there are multiple approaches for vehicle manufacturers to implement the law without violating federal law. However, like MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers, the association does not support a Bluetooth solution. “Short range wireless communication does not create the level playing field expected by the voters of Massachusetts,”

MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers added that The REPAIR Act (H.R. 906) sets a benchmark in cybersecurity for repair access, and the organization “firmly believes that the best solution is a collaborative, federal solution and invites automakers and other stakeholder to join the aftermarket in providing expert guidance and perspective to achieve that outcome.”

Justin Rzepka, executive director of the CAR Coalition, also agreed that a federal Right to Repair law is needed, such as The REPAIR Act.

“After three years, it’s more than past time the will of the voters be recognized and that Massachusetts consumers have access to their vehicle data. We thank NHTSA for finally agreeing that data can be shared safely with car owners but their solution is wholly inadequate and is no substitute for a federal vehicle right-to-repair law. Vehicle owners throughout the country deserve protections that will safeguard their rights and prevent a patchwork of state regulations.”

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