AAA: Lack of Auto Repair Choice for Public Impacts Motor Vehicle Safety

September 22, 2004

Backed by a new study released this week on Capitol Hill, AAA reiterated that consumers continue to face a lack of choice in automotive repair, a situation that can directly impact motorist safety.

“Technology has made the cars we drive smarter so they can actually tell the driver of an impending problem with the vehicle – before you breakdown and have to call AAA,” Ed Donovan, AAA Mid-Atlantic director of Automotive and Technical Service, said. “But what if your preferred service technician tells you he doesn’t have the equipment to repair your car? Unfortunately, it’s a scenario that continues across the country today.”

Some American and import auto makers reportedly currently prevent consumers from using the diagnostic information generated by their vehicles to have them serviced at a repair facility of their choosing. In many cases, the diagnostic information is reportedly accessible only at auto manufacturer-branded dealerships, preventing choice and convenience in auto repair.

At a House Commerce Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, AAA continued to press Congress to pass H.R. 2735, the “Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act.” The legislation requires that all service and repair information be made available to qualified, independent service technicians.

“When critical safety systems or other components fail, consumers may be stranded many miles from a dealership, or left to wait until the only dealership in town opens up. Not only does this represent an unnecessary inconvenience, it can also put the safety of motorists at risk,” Donovan said.

Consumers who have previously had negative experiences at a particular dealership – including overcharging, work not performed on time, unauthorized repairs, or repairs not properly performed – may not have the recourse of taking their vehicle to get a second opinion.

A new study released by the Tarrance Group indicates that 59 percent of independent repair technicians surveyed had problems in obtaining accurate and timely repair information and tools from some automobile manufacturers. Seventy-three percent of these shops experienced this problem on a monthly basis.

“AAA believes when you drive off the lot with your car, you, the consumer, should own more than just the vehicle; you should own all the information generated by your vehicle, including that which is used to diagnose and repair it,” Donovan added.

Other groups that joined AAA in supporting the Right to Repair bill today included the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA).

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