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Not Reading This May be Very Expensive

As my grandfather used to say, if you want to know why something is happening, follow the dollars

Let’s talk today about $600–$800 billion dollars. As my grandfather used to say, if you want to know why something is happening, follow the dollars. And that will explain one of the biggest issues of the aftermarket for decades. We’ll talk the past, then the current, then the future. It’s all about your right to be in business.

Remember when the aftermarket was convinced that the OEMs wanted to keep special tools, and later, software, to benefit their franchise dealers? Well, the dollars back then were not small. The OEMs and their dealers could engineer the vehicle in such a way as to limit the work that could be done outside their franchise dealers. 

This created a captive group of vehicle owners. Those car owners were, and are, threatened with their warranties. This was all done to create a stream of income from parts sales and T&E to the dealers.

There is a new stream of income being fought for right now. You know it as Right to Repair. In fact, the right to repair is no longer about the captive market for parts and T&E. It sure isn’t to protect franchise dealers. It is, as one person put it, about information.

Recently the NHTSA and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation went after Massachusetts. Seems the state had the guts to pass a law 3 years ago that the OEMs were not living up to their end of the R&R and that they had to stop it or else. As a side note, the Alliance is a lobbying group made up of the OEMs, several of their largest suppliers and technology/communication companies. You can no doubt see where this is headed. 

Then the government stepped in with their big foot in the form of NHTSA. NHTSA claimed that opening the repair systems created a danger of bad guys hacking the cars and subsequent problems with steering, braking, acceleration and other performance areas. Actually, NHTSA said the same to a similar Oregon law. 

They told both to forget it, they were not getting the information. They did decide this past August to reverse course and step out of the fray. No proof, but do you think they figured out their line was a pile of garbage since people were already hacking the cars? Hmmm.

Everyone knows that when I get all wound into something I’m likely to make work. Well, your call. But, if you have been reading this wondering what’s all the fuss about let’s talk dollars. Your dollars. They are in jeopardy if you don’t take action.

So here goes. This is an information thing. According to McKinsey, some 50% of cars are involved now.  Primarily newer vehicles our shops may not yet be seeing. And that will go to 95% by 2030. As you know it isn’t the simple OBD port anymore. It’s telematics. And we may very well not get to play in this unfolding drama. 

After spending a long time studying this issue, I came across data from a well-respected global research and trading firm known as LGT. The L is for Liechtenstein. It’s a company descended from the original royal family. Anyway, they are masters of information and global trade. And, to properly cite this, it comes from an article by Jukka Vaananen. And I must also call out Reuters, Wired and other publications.

Bottom line, the telematics systems are revenue generators for the OEMs and their partners. There are a number of estimates, but most seem to fall between $600-$800 billio in a few years. In fact, it is so big that Stellantis is launching a new company called Mobilisights expected to encompass $20 billion in sales by the end of this decade.

Your car is tracking you. Possibly even if you aren’t inside it. But, the minute you sit down your vehicle if so equipped, it’s tracking your location, emails, texts, calls, how you behave when you drive, how many passengers you have, your music playlist, podcasts you listen to, your hobbies, latest takeaway food order and much more. For you and your passengers or others around the vehicle. 

So much is collected that one OEM, and maybe more, “require” you to let passengers know their data is being updated as well. Already getting ready for the law suits that will likely follow at some point.  Remember, your car has microphones to listen in on conversations too. And, in case you wonder, these same systems have the ability to impact vehicle performance. Could even shut the vehicle down when it is very inconvenient. 

FYI, I have been hosed by the system in my own car. When I get in range it is already sending my data.  Here I thought just disconnecting the Android connection when I started the car was enough to keep my data secret. Nope, already gone. Please remember, I am just the old guy down the block who remembers when he could drive a car without the world knowing about my entire life. No top ranking international spy. But, old guys like me are targeted to buy everything under the sun. Lots that I cannot fathom how to use.

But, you wonder, “Can’t I opt out?” Well, by the time you read the novel sized program consent and say “no,” you do not consent, you will be met with another screen, brochure or statement along the lines that if you don’t give consent the company cannot update your vehicle, warn you of pending dangers with your car. 

Kind of like if you don’t give us the right to snoop all about you, the whole world may come to an end. But if you still don’t consent they will all think of you as a bad person and the salesperson will lose their spiff for signing you up.

The Mozilla Foundation did 600 hours of research on the related privacy policies. You will find it in your terms and conditions. As soon as you hit the “I Agree” button it is game on. They’ll even know where you went from the dealership and will have downloaded your personal data.

OK, I get it. You don’t care if the world knows all about you. They do anyway, right? Well, not at this level. It is deeper and wider than ever before. More importantly, if one follows the dollars, they lead right to the door of the OEM and their partners. You can forget using telematics to identify and repair a customer’s vehicle. 

So even if don’t care about yourself, worry about your livelihood, business and employees by getting involved with your aftermarket organizations to fight, customers, friends, elected representatives and the person next to you now.

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