The global consumers’ freedom of choice and effective competition in the market for vehicle replacement parts, tools and equipment, servicing and repair was discussed by representatives of automotive aftermarket associations from Australia, Europe, South Africa and the United States as part of a world-wide‘right to repair’meeting in Frankfurt on the occasion of the Automechanika Trade Show last week.
The meeting focused at exchanging common experiences against the different economic and legislative national backgrounds, as well as at discussing the challenges that are being faced to safeguard access to the technical information required to correctly service and maintain increasingly sophisticated vehicles throughout the world. An important additional element contributing to these challenges concerns vehicle manufacturers’ worldwide aftermarket strategies, which have also been addressed by the representatives during their discussions.
Access to repair and maintenance information is crucial for fair competition and the provision of competitive aftermarket products and services– anissue which is increasingly important as vehicles become ‘computers on wheels’.This has already been recognised through pertinent legislation in the European Union and recently by the adoption of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Bill at the end of July this year.
Through the exchange of information at this meeting, it was recognised that these aftermarket issues are common throughout the world. However, it was also felt that motoring consumers in many developed markets do not yet enjoy even the minimum level of legislative support to provide them with a real freedom of choice, creating an unbalanced situation which needs to be addressed.
The group also discussed the introduction of wireless communication technologies (telematics) into the vehicle and the impact on the aftermarket. Telematics permits repair, diagnostic and other important vehicle informationto be sent directly to the vehicle manufacturer using this wireless technology, thus permitting manufacturers the ability to circumvent independent operators. The use of telematics creates a new challenge that needs to be addressed in all worldwide markets to ensure that it does not undermine existing rights of access to vehicle data and the consumers’ right to choose.