Vantage Point: Take it personally

Jan. 1, 2020
The future of auto repair is at stake. Yet, when an important association conducts a meeting to discuss the most vital industry topic — vehicle repair information access — it can't fill a modestly sized hotel meeting room. And sorry to sa

The future of auto repair is at stake. Yet, when an important association conducts a meeting to discuss the most vital industry topic — vehicle repair information access — it can't fill a modestly sized hotel meeting room. And sorry to say, only two media representatives — Motor Age Senior Editor Chris Miller and myself — were in attendance.

The event I'm referring to is the recent spring general meeting of the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF). In essence, this is the meeting where your voice can be heard by the group who has taken on the task of working with the car manufacturers to obtain the necessary service information, training, diagnostic tools and equipment needed to service the vehicles on the road.

So, you and tens of thousands like you weren't there because you decided you didn't have the time to attend this or, for that matter, any other meeting of this type. Caught up in the hustle and bustle of running a shop leaves little time for much of anything else. I'm just hoping that you're not taking this issue or this group's efforts for granted.

At this particular meeting, the main topic was the Secure Data Release Model (SRDM), a data exchange system that will help locksmiths obtain the sophisticated security information needed to unlock vehicles.

Although there is progress on this particular subject, the necessary access is not clear-cut by any stretch of the imagination (see Miller's article on the subject on search-autoparts.com). In fact, Volkswagen has declined to participate solely on the basis that it doesn't sell enough vehicles in this country to warrant such access.

With the incessant and laborious battles the aftermarket has been engaged in and will continue to be engaged in with the OEMs, it should come as no surprise that the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) has taken the firm stance that this issue should be legislated. But over several years, the proposed Right to Repair Act has not garnered enough congressional support to move it forward. That doesn't necessarily mean failure. In fact, I am convinced it is the threat of legislation that has kept the OEMs at the negotiating table.

NASTF Chairman Charlie Gorman says that OEMs are "too far in" with regard to the access they have already given to independent repairers. But are they? What prevents any OEM from doing an about-face on any concession made thus far? Would it be their fondness they have toward the aftermarket? Or maybe it's their willingness to walk away from repair and maintenance business at a time when this business is key to growing their own business? Perhaps it is their unbinding word that we can bank on?

Tough questions, I know. Asking them doesn't negate NASTF's diligent work on this matter. I applaud NASTF, AAIA and all of the other associations who have contributed to finding a resolution on this matter. Although all have suggested that a "united front" would be more productive, their separate efforts taken as a whole are keeping the OEMs at bay and the lines of communication open.

Just think how much more effective their efforts would be with your personal participation in the process.

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