Right to Repair: Are the Time a-Changin’?

Right to Repair: Are the Times a-Changin’?

Perhaps this is the window of opportunity for the aftermarket's legislative agenda.

I’m listening to a recording of Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead performing “The Times They Are a-Changin” on July 4, 1987, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Although I can barely make out any of the words due to Dylan’s unique vocal stylings (to put it kindly), I’ve heard the song enough times to know most of the lyrics by heart.

I mention this because I’m trying to get in the proper frame of mind as I think about this point in history for the automotive aftermarket.

In the August 2021 issue of AMN/Counterman, I wrote an article titled “Seizing the Moment.” It explored some of the reasons why this could be the window of opportunity for the aftermarket’s legislative agenda – particularly its signature issue, Right to Repair.

In February 2022, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, introduced a federal Right to Repair bill: the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act. Quoting the summary of HR 6570, the bill would have required “a motor vehicle manufacturer to provide to a vehicle’s owner certain direct, real-time, in-vehicle data generated by the operation of the vehicle that is related to diagnostics, repair, service, wear and calibration or recalibration of parts and systems of the vehicle.”

Although the bill picked up co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, it didn’t make it out of the 117th Congress. Still, it was progress.

On the heels of the midterm elections last November, the 118th Congress convened in January. It didn’t take long for a federal lawmaker to reintroduce the REPAIR Act – and this time it was a Republican. On Feb. 9, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn of Florida reintroduced the REPAIR Act as HR 906. At press time, the bill had seven co-sponsors: four Democrats and three Republicans.

It’s easy to see how the REPAIR Act would strike a chord with their constituents.

“When it comes to repairing their automobiles, consumers deserve options,” Dunn said. “The REPAIR Act would give owners, including the rural communities in my district, secure access to critical data so their chosen service center can replace parts and repair their vehicles. I am proud to support competition in the vehicle repair industry.”

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Pennsylvania Democrat, noted that there are “hundreds of neighborhood mechanics in Philadelphia.”

“The last thing those small-business owners need is to be boxed out of making a living,” Boyle added in a news release. 

If you can believe it, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was released nearly 60 years ago. While it was a different time back then, one stanza resonates with me as I think about Right to Repair today:

“Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call.

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall.”

Is this the aftermarket’s moment? Are the times really a-changin’? Stay tuned!

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