The Messy State of Right to Repair

Aug. 14, 2023
A recent agreement between major organizations has sparked doubt.

The right to access diagnostic repair data has been a hotly debated topic within the industry as of late. While automakers insist that opening access to data will jeopardize safety, independent shops have argued it is a profit-driven strategy to direct consumers to dealerships for services and repairs. 

Tensions have been rising in discussions surrounding Right to Repair, especially after events such as a recent attempt by a group of automakers to stop a Right-to-Repair law passed by voters in Massachusetts from taking effect. 

Many in the industry are feeling the pressure to make their positions on the issue known, which is exactly what was recently done by the Automotive Service Association (ASA). 

In collaboration with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (which represents OEMs), the ASA created a letter to members of Congress with views on Right to Repair collectively agreed upon by the three organizations, based upon a national agreement made in 2014 called the Memorandum of Understanding. 

The letter stated that information provided to authorized dealers should also be accessible to independent shops. This can range from telematics data to technologies and powertrains for all vehicles, including gasoline, diesel, fuel cell, electric battery, hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric. 

Ways to make repair information accessible to others were proposed, such as having it directly accessible through an automaker’s website, shared access points such as or third-party information providers. 

Responses Follow 

Though the letter was presented as a stance representing the industry, it has not been met with universal approval. 

The Auto Care Association's response called the letter "a thinly veiled attempt to confuse lawmakers and drivers" and said it was not consulted on the drafting of the ASA's agreement document. The Association pointed to flaws in prior agreements, including that OEMs would not be bound to any participation in Right to Repair compliance and that OEMs would not be obligated to allow direct access to telematics data. 

Another group, the Auto Care Alliance, called into question ASA’s true stance on Right to Repair, claiming that rather than supporting it, ASA has been fighting against Right-to-Repair legislation for the past two decades. 

As evidence of this, the Auto Care Alliance cited a 2003 agreement made between manufacturers and ASA that the Auto Care Association said “lacked enforcement” and slowed down progress in gaining Right-to-Repair legislation. 

Though the ASA referenced the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding as the basis of its agreement, the Auto Care Alliance doubts the choice of this foundation, arguing that the terms of that 2014 agreement have not since been honored and that requests for dispute resolution have gone unanswered. 

“This is a critical time in our industry that associations need to be acting together instead of executing agreements on their own that fail to address important concerns voiced by many throughout the industry, especially when these organizations represent a minority of the industry’s total number,” says Auto Care Alliance and Midwest Auto Care Alliance Executive Director Sheri Hamilton in its response. 

In addition, MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers has also come out with a statement questioning the purpose of the agreement. 

While the organization credits the agreement with creating more conversation surrounding Right to Repair, it echoed criticism of it not proposing any real methods to preserve access to vehicle data, such as the lack of a process for enforcing Right-to-Repair legislation. 

In MEMA’s statement, they outline specific issues that must be addressed regarding Right to Repair: access to data for light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as explicit protection for consumers to access that data. 

“MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers welcomes the opportunity to work with all parties to align on a federal solution that reflects the principles of consumer choice and a free market, includes the expertise of the supplier community, has a mechanism for real enforcement, and prioritizes consumers, their safety and their economy–and the innovative industry we serve,” MEMA’s statement reads. 

MEMA follows this by affirming its support of the REPAIR Act, claiming that it addresses these issues. 

The Impact on Smaller Operations 

Many others in the industry, too, have expressed doubt over what the ASA agreement has truly proposed. According to coverage from Wired, many are still concerned with smaller, independent businesses, or those who work on vehicles at home, not having access to information from cameras and sensors. This includes data on location, speed, acceleration and the performance status of the vehicle’s software. 

“We want easy and affordable access to that information for the independent repair shop,” explains Auto Care Association Chair Corey Bartlett, as reported by Wired. 

Shops that are able to afford to pay into certified networks of shops are often able to access information easier, such as Michael Bradshaw, vice president of K & M Collision in Hickory, North Carolina, and vice chair of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, whose shop pays to be in 30 automaker certification programs that include Kia, General Motors, Bentley and Rivian. 

Though Bradshaw doesn’t see a problem with having to pay for information, for shops that are smaller and working with more limited budgets, it limits the amount of work they can safely perform. Many worry that this paywall to information will only grow higher. 

“My fear, if no one gives some stronger guidelines, is that I know automakers are going to monetize car data in a way that’s unaffordable for us to gain access,” Dynamic Automotive Co-Owner Dwayne Myers told Wired. 

There is still much discussion to be had on Right-to-Repair legislation, but it is a discussion that the industry must be involved in—not a select group. 

“In terms of how automakers behave and whether vehicle owners or repair shops will get access to information—I don’t think this will change anything,” Founder Paul Roberts stated to Wired. 

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