Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator for Victoria Ricky Muir today launched a draft mandatory Automotive Repair Code of Practice. This code will deliver to Australia’s 17 million vehicle owners an open and competitive market for auto service and repair.
Based on the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) model adopted by the American auto industry, the code proposed by Senator Muir will ensure Australian car owners continue to have free choice of repairer as future vehicles become increasingly complex.
Senator Muir said access to technical auto service and repair data is not just an industry problem. “This is a rapidly growing consumer issue,” he said.
“As vehicles become more sophisticated with each new model, particularly with the increasing number of computer systems on board, the access to codes and special tools is vital to keep them safe and reliable.
“By withholding technical information from independent repairers, the powerful vehicle manufacturers are manipulating the service and repair market.
“Government must act now to protect consumer choice. As technology advances and more consumers’ cars are driven to dealerships, small family owned workshops will close. There will be less competition. There will be less choice of repairer,” said Senator Muir.
Seven Year Campaign
Since 2009, The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has campaigned for independent mechanical and crash repairers to gain access, on a fee for service basis, to the same technical data that vehicle makers provide their dealer service centres.
AAAA Executive Director Stuart Charity said this David and Goliath battle – global car makers against a small industry association supporting tens of thousands of family owned businesses – is about independent workshops trying to gain access to the same diagnostic information that vehicle manufacturers provide for their dealership service centres.
“The vehicle makers deny there is a problem. They tell government ‘All the data is out there’. The truth is that only information the vehicle makers are prepared to share is made available.
“Their offerings do not include critical diagnostic information that allows independent workshops to interpret fault codes, turn off the check engine light, to identify the correct blend of oil, to access a PIN code to reinstall a new component, and to download the latest software update for the car’s computer system.
“Car companies also told government independent repairers want the data for free. This also is not true. Workshops are prepared to pay a fair commercial price, but they need all the data that dealers get.
“Australian independent workshops want nothing more and nothing less than the same data that these same car companies share through mandatory schemes in Europe, Canada and the USA. Senator Muir’s Mandatory Code of Practice will deliver this outcome and is ready to go.
“It has been checked and approved by the Federal Parliament library office and uses the framework of Australia’s Franchising Code of Conduct. It also mirrors the operative provisions included in the mandatory automotive industry data sharing agreement used in the United States,” said Stuart Charity.
Government Must Act Now
Senator Muir and the AAAA believe that the voluntary Heads of Agreement - Access to Service and Repair Information for Motor Vehicles* signed by all auto industry stakeholders in December 2014 has failed the consumers it was designed to serve.
That voluntary agreement called for a trial period of 12 months followed by a performance review in early 2016.
“The review is long overdue. As a result we surveyed the key political parties leading into the election and they all agreed that further government action is required to ensure an open and competitive vehicle service and repair sector,” said Stuart Charity.
“Information we continue to collect from the field shows that only a handful of the 68 vehicle brands on Australia’s roads have taken any steps to comply with the voluntary agreement. We hear that the information lock out is getting worse.
“It is hard to believe that in this day and age we have car makers that will not even share advice about the oil recommended for their engines. Has the type of oil your car uses become an industrial secret?
“The consumer challenges created by this lopsided service and repair market are becoming ridiculous. It is particularly unfair on people in regional and rural areas. Instead of dropping into their local workshop, they have to travel hundreds of kilometres in a round trip to service their vehicle at the dealer.
“The AAAA congratulates Senator Muir for his determination to protect consumers’ interests in the service and repair of their vehicles. We will continue to work with government and advocate strongly for the formal adoption of this mandatory Automotive Repair Code of Practice in Australia,” he said.
To read a copy of the Automotive Repair Code of Practice, please email a request to Senator Muir’s Advisor Matthew Midson: Matthew.Midson@aph.gov.au