Paul Hyatt, TIA president-elect and owner of Superior Tire Corp. in Toronto, and the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA) held a two-day lobby with MPs in Ottawa late last year to present the Be Car Care Aware Public Education campaign and to advocate the right of consumers to choose who repairs their car.
Without legislation, Canadian consumers may be forced to take their vehicles to new-car dealerships even for emergency tire changes, Hyatt told the MPs.
Increasingly, late-model cars depend on computers that run everything from the engine to the tire pressure monitoring systems. To properly repair a vehicle, a mechanic needs access to specialized tools, as well as the ability to “read” the computers’ diagnostic and repair codes. Vehicle manufacturers are restricting access to tools and codes, forcing consumers to take their cars to dealerships. This can mean increased wait times for repairs, no price competition, and shutting out the mechanic you’ve trusted for years.
“You may own your vehicle, but the automaker still holds the key to its computer software,” Hyatt said. “It’s bad enough when your repair shop can’t access the car’s computer on a routine visit, but if a customer’s car breaks down, they will have no choice but to take it to an authorized dealer, no matter how far away it is.
“If it’s a flat tire, they can get another one at any shop, but they’ll still have to go to a dealer, and maybe pay another repair bill, to have the pressure system reset if the automaker doesn’t share the computer codes,” he said.
The lobby event was attended by sixty MPs, as well as 65 senior industry representatives. AIA members had over 30 meetings with MPs, as well as the Prime Minister’s office. Meetings included key decision makers from each party.
The request for Canadian legislation mirrors that of the U.S., where a similar Right To Repair Act is before Congress, Hyatt said. Some information is available in the U.S. through EPA legislation and a voluntary agreement administered by the National Automotive Service Task Force, but for the most part, Canadian shops cannot access the U.S. information. AIA has attempted to negotiate a similar voluntary agreement in Canada, but negotiations have been unsuccessful.
"Independent repair shops aren’t asking for a free ride,” said Hyatt. “They are willing to pay a reasonable amount for computer software access and tools, but the automakers aren’t willing to share. Simply stated, the automakers are taking away the consumer’s ability to make a choice about who repairs their cars."