Frustrated, Yet More Determined Than Ever

Posted by Auto Care News on April 11, 2011

For several years our association has been fighting for the rights of vehicle owners to choose where they want to have their vehicle serviced and repaired.  Sounds like a no brainer – you buy a car, you buy everything in it including the information and data needed to keep it running properly.  The owner of the vehicle decides where to take it when it needs work. But some car companies and their allies don’t agree.

To guarantee that consumers have this choice, all repair shops – not just new car dealerships -- must have access to the information about the vehicle to fix it. And here is where the whole issue gets dicey.

The car makers want consumers to take their vehicles to their franchised new car dealerships so some are withholding some of the repair and diagnostic information from the independent repair shops. Of course the car companies say all of the information that the dealers have is being made available to all repair shops.  We say it is not because it is not.  Sure, there is tons of information available but at least partially because we have kept the heat on threatening legislation – the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act.

Just imagine if there was no Magnuson-Moss Act – the law which prohibits a vehicle manufacturer from voiding the vehicle warranty because service was done by a non-dealer – even though that is a common misperception.  Withholding service and repair information from independent repair shops should be prohibited as well. And if ‘all’ the information is available, why spend millions blocking a guarantee?

Let me point out that 75 percent of all vehicle service and repair is performed by independent repair shops in neighborhoods throughout the country. Only 25 percent of the work is done at dealerships and that is slipping now that there are fewer dealerships, so they don’t even have the capacity to handle a larger share of vehicle service.

Excuse the double negative here but we are not saying that consumers should not take their car to a dealership for service and repair. We are saying that they should have the right to take it wherever they want to.

To me, the car companies’ protectionist position defies logic and long-term brand loyalty strategy. Wouldn’t you want the people who purchase your new car to have a convenient, affordable and pleasant experience with quality service and repair wherever it occurs so that when they are ready to trade up they would stick with your brand?

Well, stay tuned because we are not giving up the fight until we get a law passed or we get the car companies to join us at the bargaining table to hammer out a non-legislative agreement with teeth in it. Clearly, we are not going to roll over and give up our marketplace.