Massachusetts voters are deciding in this year’s election on whether they---and not the vehicle manufacturers---have control over the repair data generated by the vehicle they purchased.
The Auto Care Association and the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE) have supported efforts by the Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee to obtain public support for ballot Question 1, which would give the consumer choice in vehicle repair.
“While the battle has been hard fought and expensive, the Auto Care Association is pleased that the most influential publications in the state have seen through the negative advertising campaign being funded by the vehicle manufacturers and have unanimously urged their readers to vote ‘yes’ on Question 1,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO, Auto Care Association. “We trust that voters in the state will agree with these publication that the right to repair is important and that advances in vehicle technology should not be used to limit the ability for owners to have their vehicle repaired by the shop of their choice."
These “‘Yes’ on Question 1” endorsements include:
The Boston Globe on Oct. 13 declared, “The reason the new Right to Repair measure should pass is simple: It is inherently unfair for car manufacturers to have sole access to a vehicle’s mechanical data, because it gives their dealerships an advantage over independent auto-repair shops. That ultimately hurts consumers, because with limited options come higher prices.”
The Boston Business Journal on Oct. 15 maintained, “Without the ability to repair cars equipped with wireless electronics, repair shops will see declines in business in coming years as car owners are forced to get repairs done at more expensive dealerships. In the end, more of the millions of dollars that Bay State residents spend every year to fix their cars would go to out-of-state manufacturers. More neighborhood car-repair shops will go out of business."
The Sun Chronicle on Oct. 21 stated, “…we think the opponents of the law have done themselves no favors by overhyping the risks it poses. For example, the ‘No’ campaigners lean heavily on a statement from ‘Jane Doe Inc.,’ a Massachusetts advocacy group against domestic violence and abuse. But, on its website, that group now says its position on the referendum has ‘evolved’ and, while saying it’s staying neutral, complains that it’s wrong to use the fears of abuse survivors to promote a political position. For that alone, we think the opponents of Question 1 deserve to get their comeuppance at the ballot box.”
The Berkshire Eagle on Oct. 21 stated, “Question 1’s opponents had ample opportunity to explain why this lobby should keep a monopolistic grip on your car’s telematics. They instead spent their campaign dishonestly fear-mongering in an attempt to distract consumers from asking why carmakers should be able to flout the spirit of the extant Right to Repair law to drive more repair jobs to their dealership garages. Hopefully voters will see through this charade.”
For more information about the Right to Repair ballot initiative in Massachusetts, visit massrighttorepair.org.
HYANNIS – Proponents of Question 1 on the November 3 ballot say that independent auto repair businesses need access to data collected by cars in order to fix vehicles, while opponents say that Question 1 could risk owner’s personal data as well as safety.
If Question 1 is approved, cars 2022 model or newer must be equipped by manufacturers with a standardized, open access platform that would allow auto repair shops to wirelessly access mechanical data using a smartphone-based app with owner’s permission.
Currently, telematics data generated by sensors in the cars is transmitted to servers only the automakers can access.
Supporters of Question 1 say that the telematics data only being available to the manufacturer means car owners must take the car to its original automaker to receive service and make repairs, diminishing consumer choice in where they can take their cars.
“If a person goes out and buys a car, they should own the data that enables that car to be fixed, and they should be able to choose where they want the car fixed. If shops like mine don’t have that information, then we can’t fix the car, which kind of forces someone to go to a place where they don’t want to go,” said Robert Wallace, President and Treasurer of Cape Tire and supporter of Question 1.
Wallace said that the limits on customer choice on where they can receive service for their car will lead to a monopolization of the industry by car manufacturers, with a rise in prices and a drop in quality service.
Wallace said that he and other supporters would be willing to purchase the data, similar to how the auto repair shops already purchase parts, and that they are not requesting that the data be made available for free.
“We’re willing to pay for it, we just want the information to keep our customers rolling.”
Conor Yunits, spokesperson for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data which opposes Question 1, said that the issue of telematics is already covered under the right-to-repair-law that was introduced in 2013.
“It specifically says that any information necessary to diagnose and repair a vehicle that is provided to dealer repair shops and only available through telematics must be made available to local repair shops. This is already covered,” said Yunits.
Yunits said that currently data is only sent to secure servers owned by manufacturers, then to repair shops or customers through secure systems developed with the automaker.
According to Yunits, Question 1 would prevent manufacturers from being a part of the development process of security systems and apps that share the information in the future, sacrificing a layer of security for consumers.
Yunits also said that Question 1 unnecessarily risks owners’ personal data by creating opportunities for bad actors outside as well as inside repair shops to access personal data wirelessly.
While mechanics or others may be able to intercept and use the data for malicious purposes, Wallace said that is a risk that comes with a lot of modern technology, such as cellphones and other smart devices that collect data on their users, and that it is up to the customer to decide whether they want to take that risk.
Yunits also said that Question 1 would also force car manufacturers to comply with an unrealistic timetable which would be impossible to do in a safe and effective manner, with new requirements that would be enforced as early as January 2021.
By Joe Marconi
With so many uncertainties these days, there is one strategy that we can all do that will help to smooth out our overall sales and customer visits throughout the year. Make sure the experience is always amazing during the entire customer visit. And perform the car delivery that gives the customer a reason to return.
Here's the key part before any customer leaves your shop: Make sure you discuss their next service appointment and any other future recommendation. Let them know that they will get a reminder by either post card, email or text. BUT, there is one more thing you can do to boost your customer retention, get permission from your customer to call them a week prior to their next appointment. Yes, give them a phone call. Try it, and give it time to work.
Oh....won't work, you're thinking??? Well, here's list of businesses that do it: Dentists, doctors, nail salons, hair dressers, chimney cleaners, boiler service companies and Successful Auto Repair shops.
By Joe Marconi
I can't speak about all businesses in my area, but the repair shops are doing ok. In fact, most had a normal or near normal summer. A few weeks back we had a major storm that knocked out power for nearly the week. That killed the week. But aside from that, we had a very good June, July and August. With a miserable March and April, this was a great morale lift and financial boost.
The only down side is the affect COVID is having on other businesses, like restaurants, deli's, sport businesses and other businesses. Will this have a trickle down effect on our industry. No one can tell for sure.
I will be shoring up my finances and preparing for the unknown.
By Joe Marconi
Due to COVID-19, many repair shops experienced a severe economic downturn, some with a drop in sales over 50%. Without a strong cash reserve and/or SBA funding help, many shops would have gone under.
My 40 years as a shop owner has taught me to always have a cash reserve. However, never would I have ever imagined a downturn like the one with COVID-19.
So, how do we plan for the next financial crisis. And, it will happen. Perhaps not as bad as the the virus crisis, but it will happen.
Here are a few things to consider: Have a separate, and hard to access, cash reserve bank account that has least two months of expenses. Also, secure a line of credit for at least one to two months of expenses. Also, know your numbers, keep payroll in line, and make sure your prices are fair to you too, not just your customers. Keep in good standing with all your vendors and keep your credit score high!
The bottom line here, is truly the bottom line. To weather the next financial downturn, you need a strong balance sheet and net profit to the bottom line.
What other strategies are you considering or implementing?
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By Jonathan Ganther
Hey guys. I'm new to the forum and was looking for this subject but couldn't find it. Sorry If I'm posted something that's already been discussed. I own a brake shop in Austin, TX. We do anywhere from 10-20 brake jobs a day. We only do brakes so I don't know how much full service auto shops deal with this problem but... Customers are constantly calling in claiming they've bought the best parts or they want to provide their own parts because they've done research and know what is best. This drives me crazy. First of all they don't know whats best. Then after being told no they get offended and act like tons of shops allow this. What is the best way to handle these customers? Just send them away? I'll quote them a price using our parts and they act as though its a rip off. What shops are doing this for their customers? I feel like I'm letting jobs get away from me. Any experience with this?
By Joe Marconi
It's no secret that Home Depot changed the Hardware Store business. Are we seeing the same thing occur with the auto parts industry? Will Wall Street dictate the future of the parts business? Main Street, not Wall Street once dominated our business landscape.
Part stores were part of the community. Did they cater to the DIY? Of course they did. But the DIYer was someone who could actually work on his car, not the weekend warrior who has no business sticking his head under the hood. And why does he attempt to stick his head under the hood? Because companies like Advance and Auto Zone tells them they belong there. Don't know how to install your alternator, no problem, click on this video and we will show you Mr. DIY.
There is no stopping big business and what mass consolidation will do to our industry. But, guys like me don't have to like it. The truth is Home Depot may have shifted their industry, but it also made a select group of business owners only stronger. The same may happen in the parts business.
Big Parts Guys, if you truly want OUR business, you need to stop catering to the DIY market and insulting us by telling us the DIYer is not our customer. The motoring public hears your commercials, they see you ads, they get your discount flyers in the mail. So, stop the insults. I would have more respect if you just come clean.
My guess, nothing will happen. The big guys won't change when money gets in the way. When home town and Wall Street collide, Wall Street usually wins. Usually, but not always.
By Joe Marconi
Openbay has partnered with AutoZone Inc. to enable Boston-area consumers to comparison shop and book automotive repair and maintenance services with a network of local professionals directly from autozone.com.
I don't know how you feel, but is this really where we are headed? An online service, now partnered with a Parts Company, that gives prices over the internet and comparisons to other shops.
Am I stuck in the past, or concerned about our future???
Here's an article on the topic:
By Joe Marconi
Pep Boys has been struggling the past few years and it looks like they may be bought out. How this will play out is unclear. Here's a thought; would Advance Auto or NAPA be interested in Pep Boys? Is more consolidation coming? And is this good for the independents?
Here's an article in the Wall Street Journal about the potential sale of Pep Boys:
By Joe Marconi
The issue with part quality and returns is on every shop owner's mind these days. It doesn't matter if you buy from NAPA, CARQUEST, Advance or O'Reillys. Poor quality parts, comebacks and getting the wrong part hurts our bottom line. I don't know how many of you track your losses with regard to comebacks and returns, I do. And I can tell you, it is doing more damage to your profit margin than you may think.
I don't have the answer but I will bring up one fact. In the industry's effort to reduce prices, we have sent a lot of manufacturing business overseas. In order to maintain or reduce price, too often quality suffers. But who's is to blame? The part companies, the shop owner's who are seeking low prices, the consumer?
The truth is, the time for pointing blame is gone. We need to change our mindset, not chose parts by price, but by quality. We need to start sending a message to our suppliers that we want quality not just price. We also need to insure that we don't have internal issues. Are our techs properly trained and do we have an adequate quality control system in place. Our reputation and the safety of the motoring public depends on it.
Here is one other fact that you cannot deny: If you reduce comebacks, improve quality, sell quality parts at a reasonable margin, you WILL make more money, have happier customers and have a lot less stress.
Here's a link to an interesting article on part quality from Aftermarket Business World