Massachusetts Ballot Law Campaign Opposes Industry-Backed Auto Repair Agreement

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By Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

Independent auto repair shops and their allies will continue to fight for access to motor vehicle repair information after opponents of a data access law announced a new agreement to share maintenance data.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group representing car manufacturers, joined the Automotive Service Association and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists last week to pledge that vehicle owners and smaller repair shops will be able to buy “on fair and reasonable terms” the same diagnostic and repair information that dealerships receive.

That sounds similar to the goal of a 2020 ballot law requiring manufacturers to provide telematic and maintenance data to owners and independent repairers, but the group that secured passage of the measure responded by digging in.

“Our coalition is not part of that [memorandum of understanding], and intends to move forward and fight for our 2020 ballot initiative,” Right to Repair coalition executive director Tommy Hickey told lawmakers on Monday, July 17.

The voter law has been in legal limbo since soon after its passage. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration effectively told manufacturers not to comply with the Massachusetts measure because it is preempted by federal law. A bad actor could use the greater data access to manipulate vehicles, the federal agency said.

“These are concerns we have raised from the beginning on this issue and this letter clearly validates those concerns,” former House staffer Wayne Weikel, vice president of state affairs for the manufacturer-backed Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said at a Consumer Protection Committee hearing Monday. He added that manufacturers still support the “right to repair” and pointed to the data-sharing agreement his group rolled out last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock has not made a final ruling in a case challenging the Massachusetts law.

Hickey that his coalition is “hoping to have a change of course from NHTSA” and is “having discussions with a lot of the federal regulators that have this issue in front of them.”


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