The state of Massachusetts has just thrown the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between the manufacturers and the aftermarket automotive repair industry over what is become known as “Right to Repair.” They have passed the first comprehensive Right to Repair legislation in the nation. Bills are pending in other states and also in both Congress and the Senate at the national level.
Simply put, Right to Repair demands the auto manufacturers share access to repair information and tools with the aftermarket auto repair industry. As our fleet of vehicles has become more complex in recent years, the amount of repair information has grown accordingly.
Right to Repair can find it roots in legislation passed in the early 1990s that created what is commonly referred to as OBD II (On Board Diagnostics II). The was the first attempt to standardize certain vehicle diagnostic systems and demand that the manufacturers share some of their proprietary repair information. At the time, OBD II was a great benefit to the aftermarket repair industry. Unfortunately as the technology in our vehicles continued to advance, the OBD II standards could not keep up.
This new, groundbreaking legislation will require manufacturers to immediately make available to the aftermarket vehicle repair industry the same tools, software, and repair information they make available to their franchised dealers. Furthermore, beginning with the model year 2018, car companies will need to provide access to their diagnostic and repair software through a standardized interface.
The Governor of Massachusetts has not yet signed this bill, but he is expected to do so. Perhaps passage in Massachusetts will break the log jamb in other states and at the national level, so we will end up with a nationwide standard.
UPDATE 09.14.12: The Right to Repair legislation is not supported by all in the automotive industry. As noted in the comments below, and directly from the Automotive Service Association (ASA), "ASA believes that the industry's efforts in assuring service information through the private sector, third-party providers and automaker websites offers our members the service information necessary to repair their customers' vehicles". To read more, please visit the ASA website.