Getting lost in the ‘deal’

Jan. 1, 2020
I’m afraid when it’s “time to meet my maker,” I’m going to have to stand in front of the Big Guy and admit what I don’t care to admit.

I’m afraid when it’s “time to meet my maker,” I’m going to have to stand in front of the Big Guy and admit what I don’t care to admit. It’s worse than you possibly can imagine. No, it’s not that, but it’s bad. Well, I guess I’ll tell you so you can see what I mean...I was once a trainee to run a new car dealership. There I said it. And I feel better for it. Forgive me, if you can.

It’s not like I was sleeping with the enemy...I was the enemy. It was during a time when I had left the aftermarket for bigger...well, I guess we’ll leave it at that because it certainly wasn’t better. In fact, it’s what I saw and learned on the “dark side” that quickly drove me back to the aftermarket. The dealership side isn’t for the meek, the mild, the ethical.

I bring this up, not to taunt myself, but to issue a warning about leaving the fate of our industry in the hands of the automakers. Our fate, of course, is tied to the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act which would mandate that the automakers make available all service and repair information to independent service technicians. This issue roared back into the news again recently when Capitol Hill was besieged by representatives from the aftermarket and the automakers for a Congressional hearing on the subject. The outcome: the automakers have one more chance to resolve this issue before Congress intervenes.

The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association supports legislation to secure the OEM data, while the Automotive Service Industry negotiated a voluntary agreement with the automakers for the same.

Now the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) has come forward to act as the watchdog “to assure the right to repair is through a spirit of cooperation between all stakeholders.” This is more than an admirable gesture on MEMA’s part –– it’s quite a commitment when you consider the complexity of the issue. For starters, MEMA suggests that Congress audit the effectiveness of the current voluntary system. The upside is that if Congress would agree to this, the Right to Repair will get more visibility, more publicity and, hopefully, more consideration from our lawmakers. The downside is that more assessment, more dissection and more discussion of the subject could delay complete transparency to the automakers’ repair data.

MEMA has made it clear that if the current cooperative spirit deteriorates, it “stands ready to act in whatever responsible way necessary to insure the right to repair...” The question I have is how will we determine the point of deterioration? Many believe we’re there now. In reality, there has been some progress with regard to OEM compliance, but still we can’t dismiss that the automakers could make all of this go away tomorrow if they wanted.

Essentially, we are leaving our fate in the hands of the automakers. Why do we want to do that when they are ones who are withholding information? This reminds me of how dealers sell cars.You never know where you are in the deal because it’s a game. And, left to the OEMs, so is the Right to Repair. n

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