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'Right to Repair' bill fails in Massachusetts

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'Right to Repair' bill fails in Massachusetts

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

The latest effort in a decade-long effort to require automakers to turn over diagnostic and software information to auto repair shops and others failed this weekend.

The "Right to Repair" bill, which passed the Massachusetts state Senate on July 6, failed to win approval before the state House adjourned Saturday night.

If the hotly contested measure had been approved, it would have been the first of its kind in the United States. Since 2001, similar unsuccessful efforts have been made in at least eight states and Congress.

Automakers claimed the bill could help make it easier to make cheap replacement parts, and it could end up costing both dealers and automakers.

Supporters had argued the bill would lower repair costs and make it easier for independent repair shops to compete with dealers. They vow to make another effort to win passage next year, when the next session of the legislature reconvenes.

Automakers praised the decision of the state House to not approve the measure.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association representing Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven others, along with the New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association, noted the state House "withstood heavy lobbying to focus instead on real issues facing the commonwealth. This bill was always about auto parts, not repairs," the groups said in a statement.

"That was the reason all sides of the auto industry -- independent repairers, dealers and manufacturers -- were joined in their opposition to the bill by public safety groups, labor unions and business organizations," the groups said.

Art Kinsman, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Right to Repair coalition, said Monday that the groups backing the effort would try again to win passage. "We think we really moved the needle this year," said Kinsman, who said that 8,000 people had called the legislature urging passage of the law. He noted the opposition of every major automaker.

"Our opponents literally hit us with scare tactics," Kinsman said.

The group argued in a study released last year that vehicle repairs cost an average 42 percent more at new car dealerships than at independent repair shops.

Both sides spent heavily in the run-up before the vote, tallying more than $1.5 million in lobbying costs, advertising and other efforts.

Automakers argued the real reason for the law is for parts' manufacturers to get access to confidential company information to remanufacture original equipment and make cheaper versions.

Proponents argued all repair shops need access to the software, which they would agree to pay for, to lower costs for consumers and fix all vehicles.

Automakers had noted that last month a federal indictment was handed up in Detroit charging a couple, including a former General Motors Co. employee, with stealing hybrid technology worth $40 million and offering it to Chinese automakers.

"The passage of this legislation would set a dangerous precedent that could have a devastating impact on our economy. It would result in manufacturing jobs going overseas to places like China where the production of knock-off auto parts is big business," said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

A letter from state Rep. Marty Walsh last month noted that 75 percent of post repair work on automobiles is already performed by repair shops other than dealers.

"The actual interests driving this legislation and its corresponding ad campaign are large, aftermarket parts companies looking to expand profits under the guise of consumer protection," said Walsh, D-Boston, who had originally backed the "right to repair" bill.

But the measure has been endorsed by AAA of Southern New England, which has more than two million members. A similar measure has been introduced in Congress, but if it passed in Massachusetts, the impact would be the same, automakers argue, since the information would spread.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100802/AUTO01/8020378/1148/auto01/-Right-to-Repair--bill-fails-in-Massachusetts#ixzz0vSMXR2aZ

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