'Right to Repair' compromise reached in Mass.
Dealers, automakers, repair shops agree to support bill in Legislature
Opposing sides in Massachusetts' Right to Repair debate reached an agreement today on a bill that would give independent repair shops in the state the same access to repair codes and tooling as franchise dealers.
Massachusetts lawmakers have until 11:59 p.m. ET tonight to pass the proposed bill. This is the last day of the legislative session.
The issue will also still be considered on the state's election ballot in November.
Several state senators and representatives said they received a joint letter today announcing the agreement between the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Global Automakers, the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition and the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association.
In the letter, supporters said the proposed legislation "will preserve choice for Massachusetts vehicle owners, protect manufacturers' intellectual property, preserve the integrity of the role of the dealer in the repair process, and continue innovation in motor vehicle diagnostics," while protecting independent repair shops and community auto dealers.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers represents 12 automakers including Toyota, Volkswagen and the Detroit 3, and Global Automakers represents Toyota, Honda, Nissan and 11 other import-brand automakers.
The issue has garnered national attention, because, if passed, many cars and light trucks would have to be redesigned to comply with the statue. Automakers say that such a major change would have to be rolled out nationwide, not just in Massachusetts.
Dan Gage, a spokesman for the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, said final terms of the agreement are still being sorted out as it makes its way through the Massachusetts Legislature. However, he noted that many of the alliance's concerns with past bills were satisfied.
"The alliance has worked for many months to ensure that every car owner and repairer can continue to access the information they need while protecting our intellectual property and ability to innovate, moving toward the 'connected car' of the future, as well as the safety and security of our vehicles," Gage said in a statement. "This proposed compromise allows us to do all that and work collaboratively on how to best universalize how the information is provided into the future."
Gage said the latest bill would extend the amount of time automakers have to comply with the law out to model year 2018. The terms of the Right to Repair Coalition's ballot question only allow automakers until 2015, a schedule Gage called "impractical."
He added that the new agreement would also allow vehicle manufacturers more flexibility to meet the universal diagnostic standard.
The terms of the ballot initiative would require automakers to comply with a specific SAE standard, while the proposed solution also allows automakers to also use an ISO standard, according to Gage.
The proposed bill would also allow for future versions of both systems to be used as they are developed.
Nevertheless, automakers will still be affected by the legislation, Gage said, noting that many will have to make adjustments to product development schedules if the proposed legislation passes.
"There's a lot of software in this case that will need to be redesigned," Gage said.
With the little time left to pass the bill, Gage said representatives from the alliance are working with ranking members of the Legislature to move the bill to the state House and Senate floors.
"Our goal has always been to avoid an unproductive ballot fight and find a better way forward that meets the needs of all stakeholders and protects the interests of consumers," Gage said in a statement. "We'll continue to do so right up through this last day of legislative session."
If the new legislation passes, all parties involved have agreed to persuade voters to vote against the November ballot initiative. As of July 3, the proposal could not be removed from the state ballot.
Though unlikely, if the ballot initiative passes after the bill is signed, the terms of the ballot initiative would be take precedence over the terms of the new law, and the legislature would likely repeal one of the statues, Gage said.
However, Gage added that in past instances where such an event has occured, the legislature has repealed the ballot initiative statue, preserving the compromise legislation.
You can reach Adam Rubenfire at email@example.com.