‘Right to Repair’: Mechanics push for diagnostic data, manufacturers call it a ‘privacy threat’

It would force car makers to standardize diagnostic systems and provide remote access to mechanical data
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 5:35 PM EDT
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WESTBROOK, Maine (WABI) - On Election Day, Maine voters will decide on Question 4, An Act Regarding Automotive Right to Repair.

It asks residents whether the state should force carmakers to standardize diagnostic systems and provide remote access to information.

Manufacturers opposed to the initiative say it is unnecessary because owners and independent mechanics already have access to all the information they need.

Supporters of the measure, however, claim there’s a lot of information mechanics can’t access because the latest vehicle models send diagnostic data straight to manufacturers where it can only be accessed by dealers.

“Interpreting the information and knowing what to do with it is where we need help from the factories,” said Steve Bedell, a semi-retired auto industry worker.

Bedell has decades of experience in various roles and works part-time at Westbrook’s Stroudwater Tire & Auto, a business that’s invested thousands in diagnostic tools.

“Having that information available for the independent aftermarket to be able to repair them properly is a big thing,” Bedell said.

Opposing ‘Right to Repair’ is the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing car makers.

The AAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

In a memo last year, the group argued the measure is a cyber security threat, claiming it would force manufacturers to provide ‘unrestricted remote data access to your vehicle.’

On a ‘Myth and Fact’ sheet posted on the AAI’s website, the group claimed automakers have made all the information and tools necessary available.

Bedell believes passage of Question 4 is really about consumer choice.

“If they choose to go to a dealership, that’s fine, but it doesn’t preclude the information from being available to the aftermarket,” Bedell said.

In 2020, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved their own ‘Right to Repair’ law.

Since then, there have been legal challenges

A spokesperson for the campaign, also behind the push in Maine, said Friday the rollout in Massachusetts is still tied up in court.