Auto Service World
Feature   October 16, 2017   by Adam Malik

EDITORIAL: Showdown looms again for the aftermarket

Time will tell as to whether or not lessons were learned from the so-called ‘right to repair’ battle.

The aftermarket fought to have equal access to information and special tools on repairing original equipment. Without such access, drivers would have been forced to take many of their vehicles’ issues to dealerships. Independent technicians would be unable to take on the work because they would be locked out of knowing what was wrong or wouldn’t have the tools required to do the job.

Customers need to have the freedom to take their vehicle to any repair and service centre of their choice, the aftermarket argued. An arrangement with the OEs was necessary to maintain the aftermarket’s viability.

In the end, an agreement was reached and the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard was written. In a perfect world, that would have been the start of an open and amorous relationship between the OEs and the aftermarket. In reality, both need each other to be successful in order for
a robust automotive industry.

But that seminal moment may be nothing more than a distant memory as both sides dig in their heels for what Innova Electronics’ Mike Fitzgerald calls “right to repair on steroids” – the battle over data ownership.

For the aftermarket, however,
there’s more at stake. The industry
is again fighting for viability.

Embedded vehicle telematics are well on the way to the automotive world – and already here in some cases. The value of data generated by vehicles and drivers is immense. Retailers and merchants will pay handsomely for information about you – like what route you travel to work, where you like to buy coffee, how many kids are in the back seat and so much more – so they can get their marketing message directly in front of you as you drive your car.

For the aftermarket, however, there’s more at stake. The industry is again fighting for viability.

If OEs have control of the data generated by car owners – like tire pressure, braking activity, fluid levels and so on – consumers will again be facing a position where they have little to no choice about where to have their vehicles serviced and repaired. The independent aftermarket will be dealt a crushing blow.

In the U.S., the Auto Care Association has a campaign around the slogan “Your Car. Your Data. Your choice.” in an effort to bring the consumer on board and understand the issues. The group’s research found 62 per cent of respondents hadn’t even heard of telematics. Half of them assumed that they have access to data produced by their vehicle. The Automotive Industries Association of Canada has found that consumers here, too, know little about the issue of telematics and data ownership. But when told, they are naturally concerned.

Therein lies the greatest advantage for the aftermarket – the court of public opinion. It will come down to educating the consumer and using public pressure in order to ensure not only security of personal data, but the viability of the aftermarket.

If holding on to telematics is a hill the OEs believe is worth dying on then it will appear as though they learned little from the right to repair debate. The aftermarket will need to strap in for a long and perhaps bruising battle, but one that should be won in the end.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said Spanish philosopher George Santayana. The OEs would be wise to heed that advice.

From the October 2017 edition of Jobber News