AAA Votes Yes On Right To Repair Legislation

May 16, 2011

If you have a nearly new vehicle or one with specialized technical demands or cutting-edge features, is it fair to assume that only the dealership can repair it, or should an independent mechanic be able to get the tools and know-how, too?

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has come out in favor of the latter, and has officially backed the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, or H.R. 1449.

The bill would require automakers to make the same service and repair information as well as tools access to independent shops as they do to their affiliated dealerships.

It's the latest step in a heated battle that's dragged on for years. In short, independent repair shops and the aftermarket parts industry want to provide repair alternatives that are often much more affordable or convenient. Meanwhile automakers, which have in some cases withheld diagnostic equipment, tools, or other repair instructions for some of their latest models, say that making these things more widely available could potentially risk trade secrets.

There's another answer, too, to why automakers want to keep the upper hand; dealership franchises still depend on service departments for a significant portion (in some cases, the majority) of their revenue. Allowing independents to comfortably service some of the latest, most innovative vehicles or components might keep the dealership from forging a relationship with the consumer—and perhaps resulting in less loyalty and repeat business.

Proponents of the bill say that vehicle owners who have no choice but to bring their vehicles in to a franchised dealership for particular repairs lose the opportunity to get competitive pricing, second opinions, or, in some cases, convenient locations or service hours.

Up until now, the automakers have succeeded in stalling the legislation, but the legislation does have bipartisan support this time.

This isn't the first time the AAA has spoken out in favor of Right to Repair. The organization testified before the Senate back in 2002—one of several other times the bill was close to passing.

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