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The only winners these past two days are the automakers

The aftermarket’s united front on Right to Repair hit a speed bump this week when a collective of industry groups announced a new Right to Repair pact with OEMs

Right to Repair is on track with the potential to become Federal legislation as lawmakers are being increasingly informed and educated about consumer choice rights and the aftermarket’s need to repair its customers cars properly and safely — a tireless effort led by aftermarket industry associations and groups.

Rob Merwin, editor and publisher, Aftermarket

The aftermarket’s united front, however, hit a speed bump this week when a collective of industry groups announced a new Right to Repair pact with OEMs.

Among the highlights of their announcement (which can be read in its entirety here) is that “independent repair facilities shall continue to have access to the same diagnostic and repair information that auto manufacturers make available to authorized dealer networks,” states the authors Automotive Service Association (ASA), Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), and Alliance for Automotive Innovation. Sounds reasonable, right?

Reaction from other aftermarket industry associations and groups was swift:

• The Car Coalition released a statement calling the new Right to Repair pact “lip service and regurgitated platitudes.” Also saying, “This pact masquerades as pro-consumer but, in reality, does nothing to expand consumer choices and give a vehicle owner access to repair data … [and] is entirely unenforceable and nothing more than window dressing.”

• The Auto Care Association challenged the pact, stating in an immediate response: “ASA and SCRS, who did not sign or support the 2014 MOU, represent a small fraction of the independent repair market and do not speak for the automotive aftermarket,” calling the agreement a “so-called pact,” that is non-binding with no way to “force participation or to enforce OEM compliance.”

• MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers spared no time in its response: “The agreement falls short of all the protections necessary to ensure consumer choice now and into the future for all parties, not only signatories of the pact … if automakers and repair shops are prioritized over consumers, fair competition and a free market would not be realized.”

When I reached out the representatives and signatories of the new pact about the critical statements and if they wished to respond, all parties readily emailed me the following:

• “Alliance for Automotive Innovation will let the comments in the press release, letter to Congress and agreement speak for themselves. This is a landmark agreement.” — Brian Weiss, Alliance for Automotive Alliance.

• “ASA is also content [agreeing with Alliance for Automotive Innovation] with what the press release, letter to congress, and agreement say. This historic agreement will have a tremendously positive long-term impact on our members.” — Ben Sharp, Legislative Associate, ASA.

• SCRS echoes the same above sentiments, though Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg expands substantially on his association’s reasoning and support for the pact in this Letter to the Editor, where he states that the pact “should be applauded rather than draw criticism from right to repair advocates.”

So what to make of all this?

The automakers must be pleased, and with perhaps more than they had hoped for (or what they had maybe hoped for): the specter of division. The aftermarket must now show and ensure for all its constituents and legislative efforts that it stands united for effective and long-lasting consumer choice rights.

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