Moving the goalposts is a sports metaphor that means to change how a goal can be scored while the game is still in progress to give one side an advantage or disadvantage. Vehicle manufacturers are seeking to move the goalposts placing consumers and independent repair facilities at a disadvantage by lobbying against the Right to Repair Law, Question 1 on the State of Massachusetts ballot in November of 2020. Vehicle manufacturers want to force consumers to bring their vehicles to an authorized dealership for service as opposed to an independent repair facility. This eliminates consumer choice and also increases the cost of vehicle ownership because dealerships are often much more expensive than independent repair facilities for maintenance and repair services.
What is the Right to Repair Law?
The Right to Repair Law is about giving the consumer a choice – allowing the consumer to select a repair facility of their choosing to service their vehicle without the vehicle manufacturer interfering in their decision.
Openbay is an online marketplace for automotive repair and service. Openbay’s mission from its founding days is to fundamentally improve the experience for automotive repair and services for consumers, and the way that automotive care businesses acquire and service customers. Openbay is a private company based in Cambridge, MA.
One of the consumer benefits of Openbay is choice. Consumers and small business fleets can enter a request for service for their vehicle on Openbay and Openbay will deliver multiple service estimates to the consumer and fleet owner from repair facilities nearby. The consumer and fleet owner is given a choice from a wide range of types of repair facilities and brand name repair facilities to select from that can deliver a service to their vehicle. Repair facilities include independent service centers, corporate and franchise brands, mobile mechanics, and yes, dealerships too.
Vehicle Manufacturers are Moving the Goalposts
An existing Right to Repair law was passed in 2012 requiring vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts to have access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information made available to the manufacturers’ Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities. This information is accessed through an onboard diagnostic port (or “OBD”) usually located under the dashboard, beneath the steering wheel column. It’s the same port that is used to perform yearly state inspections by certified vehicle state inspection facilities.
Over the years as vehicle technology has advanced, more modern methods of retrieving vehicle diagnostic and repair information was put into production by vehicle manufacturers. With this shift in technology, more information is collected, but it is not all made available through the onboard diagnostic port. Instead, enhanced vehicle diagnostic and repair information is now made available through a wireless telematics platform on the vehicle. Currently, car manufacturers are not authorizing or “sharing” diagnostic and repair information to independent repair facilities and vehicle owners through this wireless platform. This puts independent repair facilities at a disadvantage – vehicle manufacturers are moving the Goal Posts. Vehicle manufacturers have produced a more advanced way to access rich vehicle information and are not allowing anyone other than authorized dealerships to access the information.
What does all this mean for the Consumer?
If vehicle manufacturers do not allow independent repair facilities the same access to information as a dealership, consumers will be forced to service their vehicles at manufacturer authorized repair facilities (aka dealerships). This removes consumer choice when it comes time for service.
Question 1 on the Ballot:
“A “yes” vote supports requiring manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized open data platform beginning with model year 2022 that vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application.”
Independent Repair and Service Business Owners
“Massachusetts voters voted 86% in 2012 to require car companies to give access to repair information and diagnostics. But now big auto is using the next generation of wireless technology to get around our law, shut out independent repair shops, and cost car owners more money. That’s not what we voted for,” said Barry Steinberg, CEO of Direct Tire and Auto Service in Watertown, MA.
“Beacon Hill needs to update the law to protect car owners and trusted, local independent repair shops from being shut out by big auto makers,” said Glen Wilder owner of Wilder Brothers Tire Pros in Scituate, MA.
“This year has been especially challenging for many independent service centers to keep their doors open and keep their current staff employed. Voting “Yes” on Question 1 increases our odds of staying in business and continuing to service the needs of our local community going forward,” said Dick Yirikian, owner of Main Street Citgo, Winchester, MA.
Who is behind a “no” on question 1 and why?
When a vehicle ages beyond the manufacturers warranty period, consumers tend to get their vehicle serviced at an independent repair facility. Manufacturers want these out-of-warranty vehicles back at their authorized dealership getting service. Vehicles exiting the manufacturer’s warranty period enter a phase in the vehicle lifecycle where components begin to wear down and are in need of repair or replacement. These services are typically beyond your simple oil changes. They include brake services, tires, belts, suspension, etc., – mostly high ticket services that dealerships don’t want independent repair facilities to get their hands on.
More than $25 million dollars in contributions have been collected by the opposition committee and supporters of a “No” on Question 1. Top donors to the committee include General Motors, Toyota Motor North America, Ford Motor Company, American Honda Motor, and Nissan North America. Service at dealerships are generally the more profitable department. Opponents to a “Yes” on Question 1 have a clear agenda – this group wants consumers back at their dealerships to drive their profits.
A “YES” VOTE on Question 1
A “YES” VOTE on Question 1 would provide motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities with expanded access to wirelessly transmitted mechanical data related to their vehicles’ maintenance and repair.
A “YES” VOTE on Question 1 gives consumers choice!
A “YES” VOTE on Question 1 keep the goalposts from moving.