THE choice of repairer campaign has gone international with several countries finding that multinational car-makers hold different positions on the issue in different countries.
The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) participated in a forum at the recent giant Automechanika trade show in Frankfurt where associations from five continents found that the attitude of car-makers to the sharing of data was inconsistent and confused.
“Among the frustrating findings at this meeting was the fact that many major vehicle brands behave very differently in each market,” said AAAA senior manager government relations Lesley Yates.
“Brands that are co-operative in one market or region may be adversarial in another,” she said after attending Automechanika.
The forum was attended by aftermarket associations from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, South Africa and the United States.
“To effectively deal with global vehicle manufacturers offering global products, symposium participants agreed that the aftermarket also must take a global approach.
“To protect car owners’ rights around the world, we have learned that governments in each jurisdiction must regulate to make global vehicle manufacturers share service and repair data.”
The aftermarket associations, which represent independent repair and service outlets, are agitating to be given the same access to service and repair data, diagnostic tools and safety and technical bulletins as franchised dealers at a reasonable price.
In her keynote address to the aftermarket symposium, Ms Yates refuted claims by the Australian subsidiaries or arms of the car companies that there had been any breaches of intellectual property in areas where repair and diagnostic information had been available, namely Europe and North America.
“Service and repair shops are not interested in reverse engineering components. Like dealership service departments, aftermarket workshops only want the data required to service and repair customer vehicles to keep them safe and reliable.
“If manufacturers’ intellectual property is protected and their digital data is secure within their dealership system, the same protocols can be implemented to share that same data with independent workshops,” she said.
She also dismissed claims that car-makers cannot share data on security, safety and environmental grounds because, in fact, they already do in Europe and North America.
She also signalled that the battle over who controls the data a vehicle produces will be an all or nothing affair.
Car-makers producing connected cars (cars that can transmit data over the networks) are already gathering data for their own internal uses and not making it generally available, even to the owner of the vehicle producing the data.
There are many competing interests – the vehicle makers and their dealership service centres, the manufacturers of the various data-producing components, the software suppliers and the communications channel providers.
The Right to Repair symposium delegates said their claim will be “when you buy the vehicle, you have the right to ownership over all the data it produces”.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the peak body for the state motoring clubs has thrown its weight behind the choice of repairer campaign and the right to have access to a vehicle’s data.
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has welcomed the market study into new vehicle retailing that has been started by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said Australia was on the cusp of a telematics revolution and that ownership of vehicle data was crucial to the proper servicing of vehicles.
“Access to diagnostic information is critical to ensuring cars are properly serviced,” he said.
“So, with the amount of data produced by cars about to skyrocket and the rights to that data to become even more important to consumers, it is timely for the ACCC to examine whether there has been a lack of access to vehicle repair and service data.”
If that was the case, it was up to the ACCC to decide whether or not there had been any consumer detriment barriers created to entry for independent operators.
Mr Bradley also said the AAA was pleased the ACCC study would look at the adequacy of fuel consumption and emissions information provided to consumers.
“The Australian government currently performs no independent or real-world testing of vehicle manufacturer claims when it comes to the emissions and fuel usage of new cars sold in Australia,” he said.
According to Mr Bradley, claims made in this market were based on tests done overseas, sometimes by the car-maker itself.
“It is critical we ascertain the degree to which these resemble the actual fuel use and emissions profile of the vehicle when used on Australian roads,” he said.
“For most Australians, a vehicle is one of the biggest purchases they will make.
“With the average household spending around $17,000 a year on transport, it’s very important their rights to privacy, repairer choice and fair running costs are maintained.”
By Ian Porter