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Survey: Vehicle data access is top issue for independent repair shops

Vehicle data limitations cost the shops an estimated $3.1 billion each year; responses highlight need for bipartisan REPAIR Act 

Bethesda, Md.—The Auto Care Association released results on Wednesday from a new nationwide survey of repair shops highlighting the challenges that independent repair facilities face when servicing vehicles, often forcing them to turn away business.

The association stresses that these new survey findings reiterate the immediate need for the bipartisan REPAIR Act, which would ensure that vehicle owners and repairers of their choice have access to the vehicle data, tools, and software required to maintain modern vehicles.

Results indicate:

  • 84% of independent repair shops view vehicle repair and maintenance data access as the top issue for their business, surpassing other timely considerations, such as technician recruitment and retention and inflation. 
  • The majority (63%) of independent repair shops experience difficulties making routine repairs on a daily or weekly basis. 
  • Half of independent repair shops (51%) report sending up to 5 vehicles per month to the dealer due to vehicle data restrictions. 
  • Vehicle data limitations cost independent repair shops an estimated $3.1 billion each year.

“This research sheds new light on the stark reality facing the 273,000 shops and 900,000 technicians in in the United States if Congress fails to take action on federal right to repair legislation,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO, Auto Care Association. “Without change, local repair shops will be forced to turn away more and more business, leaving car owners with no choice but to foot outsized bills at the dealership. The REPAIR Act is critically needed to protect America’s vibrant network of local, independent repair shops that offer trusted service, convenience, and choice to millions of American drivers during the car repair process.”

Vehicle data restrictions disproportionately hurt small independent repair businesses by making it harder for them to offer certain repair services and parts to their customers — which can leave some car owners with no other option than the dealership for some repairs, as highlighted in the Auto Care Association’s new survey. According to separate research from Consumer Reports, this growing trend is particularly concerning when considering that consumers prefer independent repair shops to dealerships for vehicle repairs.

These new findings elevate the first-person stories of independent repairers featured in the Auto Care Association’s new video campaign highlighting the impacts of unfair repair restrictions, and builds on growing momentum for federal right to repair legislation to protect independent repair businesses and consumers. Just last fall, the REPAIR Act (H.R. 906), which has 50 bipartisan co-sponsors, unanimously advanced out of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce.

In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing how vehicle repair restrictions can “disadvantage” independent repairers relative to dealerships.

The Auto Care Association’s new survey was conducted by Hanover Research, an independent market research firm, from February 1-14, 2024 among 407 individuals who work at independent auto repair shops. The study has a margin of error of 5%.

Read the in-depth research memo here.

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