The campaign to retain the right for consumers to choose who repairs their vehicles gained global attention at an aftermarket association symposium held at the recent Automechanika trade show in Frankfurt.
Aftermarket associations from five continents gathered to review progress, share intelligence and discuss future strategies to stop vehicle manufacturers from withholding service and repair data, diagnostic tools and safety and technical bulletins from independent aftermarket workshops.
Aftermarket associations from Australia, Brazil, European Union, South Africa and the United States participated in the symposium. Australia’s delegates were Bob Pattison, president, Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) and Lesley Yates, senior manager government relations.
Discrepancies vary region to region
“Among the frustrating findings at this meeting was the fact that many global vehicle brands behave very differently in each market,” said Yates. “Brands that are cooperative in one market or region may be adversarial in another. That is certainly our experience since launching Australia’s ‘Choice of Repairer’ campaign in 2009.
“To effectively deal with global vehicle manufacturers offering global products, symposium participants agreed that the aftermarket also must take a global approach. To protect car owners’ rights around the world, we have learned that governments in each jurisdiction must regulate to make global vehicle manufacturers share service and repair data,” she said.
Yates presented Australia’s keynote address on strategy and progress at the symposium. Australia’s successful advocacy approach has been to engage with the service and repair sector and take the campaign to a grass roots level during crucial election periods.
Yates said that in direct contradiction to car company claims in Australia, there is no evidence of any breaches of intellectual property in the European Union and North American markets, where repair and diagnostic information has been available on a subscription basis for some time.
“Service and repair workshops are not interested in reverse engineering components. Like dealership service departments, aftermarket workshops only want the data required to service and repair customer vehicles to keep them safe and reliable.
“If manufacturers’ intellectual property is protected and their digital data is secure within their dealership system, the same protocols can be implemented to share that same data with independent workshops.
“The claim by manufacturers that they cannot share some information on security, safety or environmental grounds is clearly false, because they already share it with both dealers and independent workshops in the EU and North America.
“Car company protestations about the cost of supplying information are another false argument. Australian independent workshops have always said they are prepared to pay a reasonable fee but only if they get access to exactly the same information that car manufacturers make available – at a cost – to their own dealerships.
“Selling service and repair data to independent workshops will open a huge new market for car companies,” added Yates.
The telematics battle
Another issue looming on the horizon for vehicle owners – and the independent aftermarket – relates to ownership of the data generated by “connected” vehicles. This information can include all the data generated by a vehicle’s operating systems, plus a range of personal data derived from owners’ driving habits and history.
Yates said vehicle data ownership will be a complex battleground. “There are many competing interests – the vehicle makers and their dealership service centers, the manufacturers of the various data producing components, the software suppliers and the communication channel providers,” she said.
“And where do consumers – the vehicle owners – stake their claim to ownership of the data produced by all the components in their vehicle? The ‘Right to Repair’ symposium delegates said their claim will be ‘when you buy the vehicle, you have the right to ownership over all the data it produces.’
“Symposium delegates agreed to continue to share intelligence and will work together to ensure that consumers own the data generated by their vehicles. This will also ensure consumers have the right to select their repairer and direct their vehicles’ diagnostic information to that workshop,” said Yates.
Next steps for Australian consumers
Some regional markets already have mature vehicle data sharing arrangements. Some were achieved as a result of major grass roots consumer campaigns, such as in the U.S. Success came only after government mandated that vehicle makers must share data with independent workshops.
Yates said other markets are a fair way off achieving this goal. “Regardless of where each country is on that journey, sharing intelligence, counter arguments and strategy are the means to achieving global agreement to pro-consumer arrangements that promote open and fair competition,” she said.
“In Australia, we are on the verge of a regulatory break through thanks to an election commitment by the current Coalition Government. We look forward to achieving Australian consumers’ Choice of Repairer and data ownership rights in the next few months,” said Yates.
The Global Right to Repair Symposium will meet again in 2018 at Automechanika Frankfurt.