Right to Repair is a no-brainer for business

Bill Hanvey

President and CEO, Auto Care Association

Bill Hanvey
June 6, 2023

Right to Repair is a no-brainer for business

It’s hard to find someone these days who hasn’t heard about Right to Repair. Right to repair is the concept that consumers should have the right to repair the products they own and also have access to repair information and replacement parts from manufacturers. Right to repair spans major industries, including phones, computers, agriculture equipment, medical devices, automotive, heavy-duty vehicles and more. For the automotive aftermarket, right to repair means that people would have the ability to maintain and fix their vehicles at the repair facility (both independent or dealer) of their choice (including their driveway), rather than having to rely solely on the manufacturer or authorized repair shops to do so. It also ensures that independent repair providers have the same access to repair information and parts as the manufacturers. Right to Repair isn’t a buzzword – it’s a global movement, that started with the automotive industry.

It’s your stuff, shouldn’t you be able to fix it?
No matter the object, there’s something inherent about ownership that means you can do with it as you please. With recent inflation and economic uncertainty, the ability to maintain and repair your car where it’s cost effective and convenient for you shouldn’t be in jeopardy. But for the second time, it is.

Five score and nineteen years ago

Ever since the automobile existed, so too, has the aftermarket to provide choice, convenience and affordability to drivers. With choice comes competition and after a Massachusetts state battle for the consumers right to choose where to repair their vehicles in 2012, the original equipment manufacturers signed a national memorandum of understanding (MOU) which agreed to “make the same service information and tools available to independent repair shops that they provide for their franchised dealers.”

This MOU has become the model for right to repair agreements across the U.S. for many of the industries mentioned above.

Fast forward to the battle of today and the original equipment manufacturers are pulling out all the stops across industries to monopolize that same repair and maintenance data which is now wirelessly generated and sent back to the dealer. From vicious TV commercials to backdoor lobbying and outright lies, they are doing everything they can to prevent drivers from exercising their basic rights over the second most expensive consumer purchase after a house: their vehicle.

This doesn’t just apply to sedans, pickups or SUVs. Right to repair is about keeping commercial vehicles on the road too – the same vehicles that deliver groceries to the store, the ambulances that transport us to the hospital and the buses we rely on for public transportation. All are part of an essential transportation ecosystem.

It’s not Monopoly money
American families need affordable options for repair. When Destinee Green’s 2013 BMW broke down last year, less than six months after she bought it, a dealership told her that she needed a replacement engine that would cost $19,000, nearly the same as the car’s price when she bought it. Unable to get to her job, 25-year-old Green started to miss shifts and got fired. She is now behind on payments on the still broken-down car, and the lender has threatened to repossess it (Wall Street Journal, April 2023). There are other options for drivers like Destinee to keep her car on the road, safer, longer—and this instance could have been avoided at a lower cost.

On average, consumers spend 36% more on repair at the dealership than at an independent service shop. Amid economic inflation and uncertainty, providing affordable repair for drivers is more important now than ever.

Drivers need convenient access to repair, too. In rural areas, access to a manufacturer-preferred facility such as a dealership can be upwards of two hours away for a working family. Now take that inconvenience and add it to the cost to tow a semi-truck that needs service while transporting vital goods. Thousands of dollars, fleet downtime, and delayed or spoiled goods because of lack of choice will inflict harm on our already fragile economy. Furthermore, drivers simply prefer using independent repair shops over dealerships by 2-to-1 due to their low cost and convenience once a vehicle is out of its warranty period.

When choice is lost

Drivers deserve the choice of where to maintain and repair their vehicles. If left with no choice on where to service, consumers will be forced to dealerships where costs are higher, taking an estimated $100 billion from consumers’ pockets. Drivers do take their vehicles to manufacturer-preferred facilities during the warranty period (0-5 years). If the aftermarket didn’t have access to maintain and repair vehicles in the 5-12 year age range (which is what most vehicles are on the road today), dealers would be flooded, unable to handle the capacity, resulting in weeks of waiting for a driver that just needs to get her kids to school that morning.

In the name of safety and sustainability

When vehicle owners are free to choose, innovative industries like the automotive aftermarket can keep the 292 million vehicles on the road safer, longer. Drivers are delaying maintenance on their vehicles at an alarming rate: 21.3% decided to put off repairs on their vehicles in 2021 due to factors such as cost and convenience (IMR Inc., 2023 Auto Care Factbook, page 77).

Keeping well-maintained cars on the road longer can reduce waste, conserve production energy, lower cost of materials, and increase recycling.

Without the right to repair, we’ll lose the ability to innovate and create new solutions that enhance safety and mobility. We’ll lose a fair playing field and the ability to compete and provide choice for the consumer – a basic right. Costs for repairs will skyrocket and hurt our local communities. Our businesses, and our livelihoods will be harmed.

So, tell me readers: why is this basic choice so hard to guarantee?

Right to repair is good business, for all parties involved.

With liberty and business for all,

Bill Hanvey

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