At least, that’s what voters in Massachusetts thought. Back in 2012, they passed the first Automotive Right to Repair Bill in the nation—a law designed to level the playing field between dealers and independent repair shops in Massachusetts. Last month, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality (CARE) announced the Massachusetts law would become the basis of a national right to repair policy.
The announcement (or MOU, as they are calling it) is unexpected, but it’s not exactly surprising. Right to Repair is a hugely populist issue. When it came in front of Massachusetts voters as a direct ballot measure, Right to Repair passed with 86 percent of the vote. Manufacturers likely saw which way the wind was blowing and decided to go national—while they could still hammer out a deal on their terms.
The result: Beginning in model year 2018, all automakers will be required to use a standard, non-proprietary interface so mechanics can access a car’s service data. Manufacturers must also sell both repair tools and service information at a “fair and reasonable price.” Of course, there are some caveats: Information that manufacturers deem to be a trade secret or proprietary is exempt from the agreement. A five-person panel will settle disputes between parties, should a manufacturer overcharge or refuse information.
The agreement “will ensure that independent repair professionals and interested consumers have access to the tools and information required to repair increasingly high-tech cars,” said State Rep. Garrett Bradley, the Massachusetts lawmaker most vocal on Right to Repair.
As part of the agreement, CARE and AIAA—both Right to Repair advocates—will stand-down on the issue. They won’t lobby and they won’t support Right to Repair legislation in other states. For them, the fight is over.
“A patchwork of 50 differing state bills, each with its own interpretations and compliance parameters doesn’t make sense,” said Mike Stanton, president of Global Automakers. “This agreement provides the uniform clarity our industry needs and a nationwide platform to move on.”
But the argument isn’t quite settled yet. The MOU isn’t a law, and it can’t be enforced like a law—even with a five-person regulatory panel. Plus, individual auto companies—all 23 of them— still need to endorse the agreement. Until then, it’s just words on a sheet of paper.
The MOU also failed to garner the support of AAA, a longtime advocate of repair. Unlike the Massachusetts law, the new MOU excludes information about telematics—like navigation, vehicle location technologies, and wireless communication technologies.
“When you look at where telematics is going, you can start to diagnose problems before they occur,” John Nielsen of AAA told Car and Driver. “That’s really the future of repair.”