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Independent Repair Shops Are ‘Blindfolded’ Without Access to Telematics Data, Auto Care Association CEO Asserts in Op-Ed

If lawmakers don’t intervene, the issue poses a threat to vehicle owners’ basic right to decide who fixes their car, Auto Care Association President and CEO Bill Hanvey asserts in a New York Times op-ed.

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Today’s vehicles are computers on wheels, and they collect performance and maintenance data that could be a boon to the independent shops that perform the vast majority of out-of-warranty repairs. But in most cases, vehicle owners cede control of the data to the automakers before they leave the dealership.

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If lawmakers don’t intervene, the issue poses a threat to vehicle owners’ basic right to decide who fixes their car, Auto Care Association President and CEO Bill Hanvey asserts in a New York Times op-ed.

“Because of the increasing complexity of cars and the Internet of Things, data is critical to repair and service,” Hanvey wrote in the New York Times piece. “When carmakers control the data, they can choose which service centers receive our information. They’re more likely to share our data exclusively with their branded dealerships than with independent repair shops, which could have the edge in price and convenience.

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“ … This is a different facet of the privacy conversation. Our anxiety about data typically focuses on what happens when information is shared with those we don’t want to see it. But what about when information is withheld from those we do want to see it?”

According to Hanvey, independent shops perform 70% of out-of-warranty repairs. Most of the more than 180,000 independent repair shops in the United States have the tools and skilled technicians to work on today’s connected and complex cars, Hanvey asserts. Without access to telematics data, however, “they’re working blindfolded, unable to see the diagnostic information they need.”

“Imagine visiting a medical specialist and learning he can’t get access to the medical history that your doctor maintains, or having a financial adviser acknowledge that neither of you can see your accounts unless you pay a fee,” Hanvey wrote in the New York Times op-ed. “It’s alarmingly easy to imagine carmakers’ charging fees to independent repair shops that need access to vehicle data to service a vehicle purchased for tens of thousands of dollars. That fee will lead to vehicle owners’ paying higher repair prices just so that technicians can obtain the data.”

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Citing a survey in which nearly 90% of consumers said they believe vehicle owners should control who can see their car’s data, Hanvey reiterates the Auto Care Association’s position that vehicle owners “should be aware of the data the car transmits, have control over it and determine who can see it.”

“It’s clear, because of its value – as high as $750 billion by 2030 – carmakers have no incentive to release control of the data collected from our vehicles,” he asserts. “Policymakers, however, have the opportunity to give drivers control – not just so that they can keep their data private but also so that they can share it with the people they want to see it. This will let car owners maintain what they’ve had for a century: the right to decide who fixes their car.”

To read Hanvey’s May 20 op-ed in the New York Times, click here.

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