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How the Auto Care Caucus is Fighting for Change

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Established in early 2017 by the ACA, the Auto Care Caucus is giving a voice to the auto repair industry. The Auto Care Caucus recently reached its 30-member milestone, which is 11 more members than the 2017–2018 congressional session, showing more awareness of industry issues. Although that’s a large increase in membership, there’s still more awareness that needs to be shed on the issues that the Auto Care Caucus is fighting for in the industry. 

Ratchet+Wrench recently spoke with Paul Fiore, Auto Care Association’s senior director of government affairs, to discuss what the caucus does, where their efforts are focused now, and where they want to be in the coming years.

What does the caucus do?

The Auto Care Caucus is classified as a House Membership and Staff organization and functions the same way a lobbyist does—it brings a sense of expertise to congressional staff on issues they are not familiar with in order to make the best decisions. 

There are hundreds of caucuses out there, and they all kind of have the same purpose, and that’s to bring together members of Congress who understand a particular industry or the industry issues or some combination. 

The Auto Care Caucus is the watchdog for small business issues, healthcare, tax, and labor issues nationwide. During the 116th Congressional Meeting, the Auto Care Caucus really hit the ground running on issues, including the Chinese tariffs and the Border Adjustment Tax. 

Why should those in the industry pay attention to issues like this? 

How the auto care industry will look five, ten years from now depends on how successful we are at tackling these issues. If the automakers get complete control over all vehicle and diagnostic data, many independent shops will fail, with significant losses throughout the entire aftermarket supply chain. We believe that the competition in the vehicle repair market is not only a necessity for our members, but for the motoring public as well, who want to continue taking their vehicle to their service facility of choice. 

What is the caucus focused on now?

We are all hands on deck with auto tech data issues. We are trying to amend the current right to repair to reflect the current technology and the role that telematics plays in vehicle technology. It’s kind of fun seeing the shock on their faces when we tell congressional staffers their car is transmitting data and they don’t even know it. I can tell you confidently that 100 congressional officers are now aware of the issue.

Right now, we are still in the education mode. The more that we educate about who we are and what our issues are, the better off we are as an industry, but change won’t happen overnight and it could take two to five years to see any progress.

Going from 19 members during the 2017–2018 year, to now a record 30 members on the board, what does this mean for the caucus and the industry as a whole?

People simply weren’t aware of the issues before and now are. In reality, it’s a marker for the serious nature of what we’re doing. The auto care industry is almost a $400 billion annual industry, probably four million jobs. When you break that down, that’s 5,000 jobs that make up the industry in industrial congressional districts. That’s significant—that gets people’s attention.

What does the caucus hope to accomplish down the road?

Over the next year, we hope to add 20 more members to the caucus, grow support for any legislation on the vehicle data issue, and continue to educate Congress on the industry’s issues. Any issue in congress is a slow one—we don’t mark our successes the same way the rest of the world does.

What real power does the caucus have? 

The Auto Care Caucus is a core component of our strategy to recruit industry allies in government. The more lawmakers who are aware of our industry and our issues, the more likely they will side with us on any future legislative fight. Therefore, if you have a good relationship with your member of Congress and they are not a member of the caucus, ask. If the invitation comes from you—a constituent—the more likely they are to join up.   

If someone is interested in becoming involved, what steps should they take?  

There are several ways. They can reach out directly to their Representative’s district office and ask to meet them at their next district roundtable or town hall. They can also go the Auto Care Association’s Advocacy website (bit.ly/autocareadvocacy) where there are a variety of resources and information that can aid in reaching out to your elected officials and starting this conversation. Or, you can reach out to me personally for a personal conversation. Any of these actions would be a great start for readers that want to recruit their own member of Congress to join the Auto Care Caucus. 

Beyond the Caucus, what are other ways that shop owners can get involved? 

All shops should visit yourcaryourdata.org to learn more about how the vehicle data issue will impact their business and what the industry is doing to inform consumers. In addition, they can explore autocare.org and visit our own CCPN community of outstanding shops across the country. Every business, no matter how small, should be actively engaged in public policy advocacy. If you are not helping to dictate the terms, the terms will be dictated to you. Plain and simple.

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