Like a snake that refuses to die, the so-called Right to Repair initiative keeps popping up around the country. This time, it is in Massachusetts where proponents filed a petition to put the matter on the ballot; that will happen unless the legislature steps up and kills it before May 1.
Advocates want automakers to make the same repair and diagnostic information provided to dealerships available to independent repair shops for a "fair" price online and want universal plug-in diagnostic equipment that would work on vehicles of all makes -- all by the 2015 model year.
Supposedly, the campaign's goal is to give consumers more choices for repair work at the lowest possible price.
The bill's backers include aftermarket trade groups, parts retailers and some of the largest chain service shops, including AutoZone, NAPA, Midas and Meineke -- which all covet the repair work done at dealerships and want a low-cost way to do it.
Even within the independent repair industry there is opposition to such changes. The coalition opposing Right to Repair laws includes not only groups that represent virtually every dealership and automaker, but also the Automotive Service Association, which represents independent service and repair professionals.
Each automaker already sells independent shops the necessary repair information -- at the same price and in the same format offered to its dealerships. But the independents want all the automakers' information available through a single Web-based subscription service.
A law that forces automakers to use diagnostic technology that is the least common denominator would be wrong. It would prevent manufacturers from making proprietary changes to improve the serviceability and reliability of their products, which would work to the detriment of consumers.
The Right to Repair bill is wrongheaded and must be defeated.