Auto Service World
Feature   November 1, 2009   by Auto Service World

Right To Rethink


The last few weeks have provided much to think about in terms of Right to Repair.

At the top of the list is the landmark decision by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada to join with automakers, the National Automotive Trades Association (NATA) and its members, and significantly, the Ministry of Transportation to work toward a voluntary agreement.

As many of you will be aware, years of stonewalling by the OE channels in Canada led much of the aftermarket, through the auspices of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, to seek redress through Canada’s legislature.

After many seemingly futile efforts, or at least progress so slow as to be nearly impossible to measure, a huge advance was finally made when a bill, Bill C-273, made it onto the docket in the House earlier this year, giving it a real chance of becoming law.

Still, that’s a pretty big dream for a little private member’s bill, even with an overwhelmingly positive vote.

And when Tony Clement, Minister of Transportation, applied pressure to stop the NDP-sponsored bill and aggressively pushed the voluntary agreement forward as a virtually government-sponsored solution, an odd dynamic developed: on the one hand, the chances of the bill making it through committee went from slim to virtually none; and the chance of getting a workable voluntary agreement went from questionable to as close to a sure thing as you will ever get.

With the remaining contentious point being resolved (the question over reflash capability being opened to the aftermarket) and the fact that all those involved always stressed that the goal was a solution, regardless of means, it only made sense to abandon the legislative approach in favour of the cooperative one.

I am sure that a great many people are going to feel that the abandonment of the legislative approach is a betrayal of sorts; certainly Brian Masse, NDP MP Windsor who has put so much energy into getting the bill to where it was can be forgiven if he’s smarting a tad. But, from what I hear, he understands the need for a solution and he must understand better the precarious life of a private member’s bill.

We should, however, thank him.

I firmly believe that progress on the Right to Repair Bill was absolutely crucial to the progress of the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard voluntary agreement, as it is called.

I also believe that the agreement’s rapid progress starting early this year pushed the OEs to agree to sit with the aftermarket, and NATA in particular. It was, after all, the only thing that had changed in the landscape.

I also believe that the threat of the NDP getting credit for a consumer-benefiting initiative–it is, after all, the “consumer’s right to repair” at the centre of the issue–put the governing Conservatives on the offensive and brought them to seek to hijack the issue.

I also believe that none of this really matters–not the history, not the sharing of credit, not who has done what or said what to whom over the past several years–as long as the aftermarket gets what it has always asked for: a solution.

And that is what is closer than ever today. So, for everyone who wrote their MP, spoke to a consumer, attended a meeting, or ever uttered the phrase “Right to Repair,” give yourself a round of applause. Together we all got the aftermarket to where it is today.

And then roll up your sleeves, and continue with the work.

For, while a united process is a tremendous development, it is just a common route that has been decided on. There is still a way to go before we reach the destination.

— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

aross@jobbernews.com

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NEXT MONTH

In December we profile the Jobber News Counterperson of the Year, plus we look at Reman Developments, and Look Back at 2009.


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