Two major auto industry trade groups opposing so-called Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts say they've reached a stalemate in negotiations with the measure's backers.
The proposal in the state legislature would require automakers to provide independent repair shops with computerized repair codes and tooling for their vehicles at the same price the automakers provide them to franchised dealers. Automakers would have until 2016 to comply. Those that fail to comply would be unable to sell or lease cars in the state.
Automakers and dealers are watching the battle closely because if the measure becomes law in Massachusetts, it could serve as a model for other states. The automakers say the measure would require them to re-engineer vehicles or risk not doing business in the state.
"We tried very hard -- and I mean very hard -- to get an agreement, and we were not able to do it, said Mike Stanton, CEO of Global Automakers, which represents Toyota, Honda, Nissan and 11 other import-brand automakers. Stanton's group and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said this week they had reached an impasse in talks with the legislation's backers.
Supporters of the measure say it would help cut repair costs and increase consumers' choices for vehicle repairs.
The Massachusetts Senate has passed a version of the legislation. Another version is under consideration in the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association last week said it had agreed to partner with the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition to support provisions in the House measure after the two organizations reached a deal.
Robert O'Koniewski, executive vice president of the Massachusetts dealers association, said a compromise was necessary so dealers could avoid having the issue before voters in November.
Supporters of the legislation also are pushing to put the issue on the ballot in November. The ballot initiative would become effective in 2015.
"If you start with the ballot question as the beginning point for where we're going in all of this, there's nothing good in the ballot question, as we see it, for dealers," O'Koniewski said.
Even though legislative approval of the measure would give automakers a year longer to comply than the ballot question, Stanton said another year would be little help to most automakers.
"This is not like switching a switch," Stanton said. "This is like redesigning a car."
Dan Gage, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 automakers including Toyota, Volkswagen and the Detroit 3, said his group's members also are concerned about the brief period before they would have to comply. He said his organization has "bent over backwards" to negotiate a better legislative solution.
Art Kinsman, spokesman for the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, said his organization is confident that if legislation is not passed, voters would approve a ballot question.
A recent poll by AAA Southern New England found that 87 percent of its Massachusetts members surveyed were in favor of the measure.
Said Kinsman: "We're not looking for an advantage over dealers … if everybody has the same information and access to the same information, then you can compete for customers based on price and service, not on who controls the codes."