Thursday, May 24, 2012

Right to Repair Passes Massachusetts Senate

David Carlisle

I guess this was inevitable. Here’s the story, as printed in Fender Bender:

“The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition said the legislation is meant to protect motoring consumers by requiring auto manufacturers to sell all non-proprietary repair information, tools and safety-related bulletins to independent repair shops and new car dealers so they can repair vehicles using the same manufacturers’ codes and ensure a competitive marketplace in the auto repair industry. The legislation provides car companies with strong protections for their trade secrets, and only requires them to make available the same diagnostic and repair information they provide to their franchised dealers. …’We thank chairman Tom Kennedy and the legislation’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Jack Hart. Without their leadership, consumers would still be waiting for this step,” said Art Kinsman, spokesman for the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition. “We applaud the Senate for acting and look forward to passage in the House and then on to the Governor for his signature—consumers are waiting.’”

So, AAIA went for the jugular by using a Madison Avenue name for a law - “right to repair” – and getting it passed in Massachusetts … where, of course, we all have the right to repair … whatever. The AAIA was brilliant and I must nod to them – sort of like the nod I give to the Yankees when they demolish our Red Sox (well, not this year certainly).

May was a pretty good month for AAIA. Kia sent out the following TSB that caused quite a stir (Kia Technical Service Bulletin (TSB), #114 dated February 2012):
“Kia does not test or approve any aftermarket filters and only recommends the use of Kia genuine parts that are designed to operate at the specifications set forth during engine lubrication design and testing. If the engine oil has been changed recently and a noise condition has developed, perform an inspection of the oil filter and/or customer oil change maintenance records to help you in determining if an aftermarket filter or the wrong oil viscosity was used. If the vehicle is equipped with an aftermarket oil filter, perform an oil change and filter using the correct oil grade/viscosity and a replacement genuine Kia oil filter at the customer’s expense. … Note: Customer concerns as a result of incorrect oil viscosity or use of aftermarket oil filter should not be treated as a warranty repair and any related damage is not warrantable, nor is changing the engine oil and filter to isolate this condition.”
Sounds reasonable to me, and spot on. Well, the AAIA was not happy with this – In a May 7 letter, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) called upon the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against Kia Motors for allegedly misleading consumers pertaining to the use of non-original equipment replacement oil filters. The letter was also signed by the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA), the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Service Station Dealers of America (SSDA) -

During the past few months, we have surveyed thousands of service customers in our annual Service Sentiment Survey. We coupled this with focus groups of Independent Repair Facilities (IRFs), Digital Service Customers (DSCs), Jobbers & WDs, and Dealer Parts Managers. We developed a market model that explains what’s been happening. Looks like Kia was right on target. The non-dealer market is bloated with bad, cheap parts that, in many cases, simply don’t work. The jobber and IRF focus groups were hilarious – great stories about the junk out there that ultimately hurts the end-customer. Right to repair? What about the right to know the truth? AAIA looks a lot like a lobbying group to me – sometimes the market for truth sucks.

Bottom Line: My uncle was a WWII vet. He would drink a lot of beer and become loquacious. I remember once talking about who started the war. He became animated. He said not to focus so much on who started it, but to think about who could have stopped it before it became all about guns and grenades. The AAIA did not get “right to repair” through the Massachusetts senate. The OEMs simply did not stop it.

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