WASHINGTON — The federal focus on "right to repair" has shifted back to the auto industry after a U.S. lawmaker introduced a bill last week mandating that vehicle owners and independent repair shops have the same access to repair and maintenance tools and data as automakers and their franchised dealerships.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said he submitted the bill to address "inadequate and outdated laws and regulations" that "have made it increasingly difficult for independent repair shops to access critical vehicle data needed for repairs."
"As cars become more advanced, manufacturers are getting sole access to important vehicle data while independent repair shops are increasingly locked out," Rush said in a statement.
President Joe Biden in July magnified the federal government's focus on repair restrictions across a broad range of sectors, putting pressure on the Federal Trade Commission to ratchet up right-to-repair regulation. Biden's executive order does not specifically call out the auto sector.
Rush's bill — known as the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act — would prohibit automakers from blocking access to data related to diagnostics, maintenance and repairs for vehicle owners, aftermarket parts manufacturers and independent repair shops.
The legislation is backed by major players in the automotive aftermarket and repair industries, including the Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association. The National Automobile Dealers Association opposes the bill.
Republican support for the bill is expected "in the coming days," a spokeswoman for Rush said.
Rush's bill adds fuel to an already heated issue that has pitted automakers against independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers, despite a memorandum of understanding signed by those key stakeholders in 2014.
That agreement, which came about after Massachusetts passed its own automotive right-to-repair law in 2013, gave shops in all states the same access to diagnostic and repair information.
Following the introduction of Rush's bill, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation — which represents most major automakers in the U.S. — said the auto industry "continues its long-standing commitment to consumer choice for vehicle repairs."