The move to pass the automotive "Right to Repair" bill has picked up another powerful Senate sponsor -- Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
"We want to thank Sen. Dodd for supporting this very important piece of pro-consumer and pro-small business legislation," said Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, which is championing the measure.
The Right to Repair Bill would require carmakers to provide independent repair shops with the same access to the same safety alerts, technical service bulletins, diagnostic tools and repair information they provide to their dealer network.
The sponsors say the bill protects motoring consumers from a "growing and potentially hazardous vehicle repair monopoly" by requiring that car companies provide full access at a reasonable cost to all service information, tools and safety-related bulletins needed to repair motor vehicles, thus leveling the competitive playing field between dealerships and independent repair shops. They say consumers would benefit because in many cases, independent repair shops provide service at a lower cost than dealerships.
The measure currently has bipartisan support.
"The Right to Repair Act does not cost taxpayers money, does not create a new agency and, more importantly, does not ask taxpayers for a bailout," said Ray Pohlman, president of the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality. "This bill keeps motorists in the driver's seat by making sure that they, and not the vehicle manufacturers, have the final say on where a car is taken for service."
'Solution in search of a problem'
Some other automotive groups have a decidedly different view, with one calling the bill "a solution in search of a problem."
"Automakers already provide affordable access to the necessary information to diagnose and service vehicles," said Ron Pyle, president of the Automotive Service Association, a group representing automotive service businesses. "All automakers maintain service information websites and make factory scan tools available to the independent repair community. The information is the same as that provided to franchised dealers and the tools are capable of performing the same functions. By investing in proper equipment and training and subscribing to service information providers, repair shops can gain access to everything they need to repair a motor vehicle of any make or model."
Automakers don't support the legislation either. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says proponents have been pushing for the legislation at both the federal and state levels for nearly a decade.
"The U.S. Congress and all other state legislators have consistently rejected their claims," Alliance President and CEO Dave McCurdy said. "No state has ever adopted the so-called 'Right to Repair' legislation."
The House version of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act (HR 2057) was introduced by Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and George Miller (D-CA) and currently has 61 cosponsors.