During the November elections, the people of Massachusetts overwhelmingly passed Question 1, a ballot initiative that requires truck and car manufacturers to allow fleets, vehicle owners and independent service providers access to telematics data. The Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network is calling this “a huge victory for the independent aftermarket,” but adds that the fight is not over.
Specifically, Question 1 stated that “vehicle manufacturers must make available all mechanical information needed to diagnose and repair [vehicles] as well as perform routine maintenance, over a secure open access platform that independent repair shops can access when authorized by the [vehicle] owner.”
To understand the significance of this vote, we need to go back to 2013, when Massachusetts first passed Right to Repair legislation. Following that, vehicle manufacturers agreed — via a Memorandum of Understanding — to release codes that were transmitted through the vehicle’s diagnostic port so that independent service providers and fleets themselves would be able to effectively repair trucks because they would have access to the diagnostic trouble codes, explained Marc Karon, CVSN’s Right to Repair chairman and president of Total Truck Parts, a Kentucky-based aftermarket truck parts distributor.
“Now we get to 2020, and most automotive manufacturers are doing away with diagnostic ports,” Karon says. “They are just having an internet connection with the vehicle. In essence that means the service shop [or fleet] would be unable to hook to anything and would not have access to telematics data.”
Question 1 requires truck and car manufacturers to create access for owners, fleet and service shops. “If we did not win this question [essentially a referendum], we would be unable to repair vehicles,” Karon explains. He adds that truck manufacturers have not yet eliminated the diagnostic port, “but we see it coming in the next couple of years.” CVSN wanted to prevent a situation where the only way for a fleet to get a truck repaired would be to take it to the OE dealer.
While the decision only applies to Massachusetts, Karon suspects that what happened in Massachusetts in 2013 and the subsequent MOU is likely to be repeated.
A bill still needs to be written that spells out exactly what manufacturers do and do not have to do, how to seek remedy if someone is not providing access, and what the penalties are for not abiding by the law.
“What I see coming is OEMs using their lobbying capabilities to try to negotiate the best solutions for them, and we will do the same,” Karon says. He hopes the two sides will be able to negotiate a national agreement.
He believes that there are issues raised by the OEMs that are valid surrounding what information is going to be made available and what information is not. What Karon and CVSN want is the information that allows them to repair vehicles.
CVSN was not the only group working for this bill, and Karon thanks Auto Care Association executives Bill Hanvey and Aaron Lowe for their “fantastic job leading the effort for us.”
When looking to the future, Karon says, “The fight will go on. Truck manufacturers will always try to create a competitive environment that is favorable to them. And there will always be CVSN out there to fight that. This was just one battle in a series of battles, and it was a great victory. It was a watershed situation where if we did not win, we essentially were gone.”