According to a panel at the AIA Conven-tion, the battle over access to OBD II is far from over, despite recent wins in U.S. courts.
“We were concerned that the cost might grow so high that it would become cost-prohibitive. The information is still difficult to find, is hard to get and sometimes just unavailable. So sometimes the technician would be left without the necessary information, giving a leg up to the new car dealer,” says Aaron Lowe, vice-president government affairs at AAIA. “It’s important that the aftermarket has access to the same tools as the car dealers in order to stay competitive.”
Can you repair with a generic tool? Yes, he says, but it might take twice as long.
The development of access to information legislation goes back to the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1990, but changing technology has made it difficult to continue to get access. With the Internet explosion, says Lowe, it is time to take advantage of this improved access to information.
“Basically all the manuals, TSBs, and training materials had to be made available to the aftermarket. Enhanced diagnostic tools also had to be made available to the aftermarket,” says Lowe.
Reprogramming was a key issue. “We wanted to make sure that the independent aftermarket had access to these program updates and the tools to do them.”
There continues to be a number of issues, and ongoing resistance by the manufacturers, though details continue to be worked out.
Cost is one issue; interpretation of what constitutes access is another. Manufacturers have also disputed access requirements, claiming trade secrets would be violated. Once the regulation comes into force in January of 2002, the battles over this and other areas will truly begin, though Lowe is hopeful that there won’t be trivial challenges at every turn.
“What we came up with is a scheme whereby the car companies had to go to court on a case-by-case basis to protect their trade secrets.” The feeling was this would keep the manufacturers on point, so they would only contest the really important areas.
“We consider this a major victory for the aftermarket. The aftermarket united and showed that we were going to fight for what we needed. We need to stay proactive on implementation and other issues.
“Unless as an aftermarket we become more politically active, we’re going to lose out. The battle in California is one first victory. A lot of things happen here that move to the U.S. and vice versa.
“In cooperation with the AIA I think we can become much more effective in protecting the aftermarket.”
Repair garage owner Murray Coleman–shown during the IT panel discussion he also participated in–says that shop owners need to take training seriously to deal with OBD II concerns.