Right to Repair Bill in MA

Here in MA, we have an advertising war over Right to Repair legislation. As I understand it, the bill, if passed, will allow independent shops to have access to repair codes of manufacturers (i.e. dealers).

What’s the big deal? Why can’t my own brownie-loving local guy have those codes to diagnose my check engine light?

What’s the big deal?!? Seriously, that is a basic business question. The manufacturer wants to protect their licensed dealers to insure they can compete in the lucrative repair business. They have tons of overhead costs and pay the manufacturers for the rights to sell and service their cars. The independant does not share these cost burdens and could easily underbid them on most repairs. It’s a pretty basic case of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours…

Dilworth, how about a link? I would like to see what is really being held back.

In this country, we protect proprietary information. Whether or not to share that information is up to the company that owns the rights. For example, Apple decided not to make its operating system open source, and that decision allows Apple to ensure the software that runs on its computers runs well. IBM, on the other hand, released the source code of its computers, which meant anyone could sell software to run on its computers, and what we got from that was bad software that didn’t run well. Bad software isn’t all we got from IBM’s decision though. We also got more innovation and more software titles for the IBM than we did the Mac.

If car manufacturers protect their proprietary codes, they protect themselves and their profits, but they also protect the consumer from those who are not trained to properly use their codes.

One possible reason your brownie-loving local guy can’t have access to those codes is that the car manufacturers can’t force your brownie-loving local guy to be properly trained on what to do with those codes. The car makers might just be protecting you from all of the dishonest or incompetent brownie-loving local guys out there, even if they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Freedom of information isn’t a black and white issue.

TwinTurbo: Understood.
Oldschool: attached is link to language of the bill before MA Senate.

I appreciate your time and opinions.
I am just trying to figure out why I have to take my 10 year-old heap (240K+ Mi) to a dealer when my own guy can’t diagnose the issue due to instrumentation issues.

Shouldn’t I be the judge of what my guy can or can’t do based on a long relationship of quality service and excellent results?

Sounds like “Big brother” to me…

I know that the total cost of the “scanner system” at my BMW Dealer here in town was well north of a million dollars,want to buy in? You install the wireless head on a car and in minutes the boys in NJ know more about the car than you do, and you can see it.

I just can’t think of an incident where the lack of certain knowledge kept me from a repair I wanted to make, what exactly are we talking about, you want to re-write the engine management software?

MAkes great sense to me! However, you know as well as I do (and others do) that those codes are the way the Dealer can charge you those outrageour 65 bucks per hour labor fees! You don’t want to give the Chevy, Ford, Dodge, etc. owners a fair and even break do ya? Silly boy! LOL

I think the real concern of the independent shops is to gain access to the software and updates the manufacturer has for the various imbedded computers. You have the ECM, TCM, BCM, the ABS computers, the Traction Control computer, air bag computer, etc. with software documentation that is unavailable to independent shops. Consider what will be happening when the TCM of Saturn transmissions is orphaned by GM. If the dealer service department loses access to software revisions and updates, the car owner will be ‘out of luck’. If a transmission shop rebuilds a Saturn 6T70 transmission, the Transmission Control Module has to be reset to initial conditions plus any updates that have been done to the transmission. If that capability is not available, the dealership may be the only source of software repair.

I sure hope I can read the actual wording of the proposed legislation.

In the quest by the automotive industry to generate revenue, they’re getting tighter and tighter with the information they make publicly available. It’s really hard to blame them for doing so. They’r eonly trying to protect their dealers’ ability to make a profit…and their own profits, since the dealers are obligated to sell their branded parts.

Scion dealers won’t even sell shop manuals anymore. When I tried to buy one I got a speech about how complicated todays cars were and how people should not try to work on them themselves. I expect that the inability to buy shop manuals from dealers will be common soon.

Sounds like “Big brother” to me…

…until you are the guy getting screwed by having his proprietary information stolen and pirated. If you were an Apple stock holder, you might feel differently. That business model has worked for them so far. They use it on everything, from computers to cell phones. Even the iPod has a proprietary software that protects the digital rights of musicians and producers. Do you really think Napster’s business model was ethical? Someone owns the rights to the music. Why is it okay to steal from them?

Not only is this an ethical question of fairness, it is a matter of free markets. You are free to choose not to buy one of these cars, whose manufacturers withhold their codes. If Jaguar decides not to release their codes to your favorite mechanic, nobody is twisting your arm saying you have to buy a Jaguar. You can choose another brand of car. It’s called freedom of choice, and you have it.

Wow Whitey. Are you a professional lobbyist? You sound like a cheer leader for corporate interests - like the standard ideology is fed out and you just buy it hook line and sinker as if it is Truth.

Intellectual property issues are among the trickiest of all, and I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that it is all so simple. The producers have rights, true, and should. But I think you might overstate the case. Its really odd too to call it “free markets” when these kinds of things actually act to make markets unfree. This is another thing that just can’t be so easily oversimplified. To say that one has some kind of “choice” in how open their car manufacturer is is also just strange. Oligopolistic industries tend to adopt the very same strategies (sometimes on purpose). There is a lot of overestimation of “market” in there. Besides, aren’t all of those systems part of the manufacturing? As such, shouldn’t the profit on these kinds of things be gained at point of sale. A good market logic would say let the repair shops compete and if the dealer service departments can’t compete then so be it. Odd.

Its also particularly odd that you mention the IBM/Apple thing inferring that making the software open source (IBM) created disaster. I have to assume that you really meant Microsoft as the thing that doesn’t work well, but a lot of that can be attributed to the opposite of what you infer - basically that it achieved near monopolistic market control. Apple has much more incentive to be less of a mess because it has always struggled for market share.

Anyway, I’m not saying that you are wrong either although I would vote for a bill like this. That is for the reasoning noted above. I should not be allowed to “steal” this information and go start my own car company with it. However, the intellectual property is what is needed to get it to the point of sale. If I am then going to buy a car then I believe that I have full rights to the information needed to repair it.

Actually, cigroller, I am a PC person, not a Mac person, and I am kind of playing devil’s advocate on this issue. You guys all see this issue from the side of the owner, and the side of the independent mechanic. I thought it would only be fair to represent the other side.

I never suggested making IBM software open source created disaster. I just suggested it was responsible for some of the buggy software.

No matter how you feel about this issue, wright or wrong, good or bad, this is a “digital rights management” (DRM) issue, and DRM policy is a strategic decision companies are allowed to make for themselves. This is why DVDs come with anti-copying measures. This is why Apple charges for iPad content you can find on the internet for free. This is why you should only download Apple-approved applications for the iPhone. This is why you may not rebroadcast NFL games on the internet.

As strategic DRM decisions go, I agree withholding the trouble codes is a stupid idea, but unless I am mistaken, this decision is theirs (the car company’s) to make.

The manufacturer does not release the code that will diagnose the system. Your shop has no idea but the code could tell them exactly the problem. The car dealer already rapes car buyers (look at the value loss as you drive it away). The computer info is availible via black box methods that are completely legal. The issue is it costs money to find the codes out. You already bought the car including the computer and the software that runs your car. That was in the sales price. You OWN IT. This info is already built in the THE CAR THAT YOU OWN . You also OWN THE SOFTWARE. The seller does not say you do not, default rule is that you do. So why do you pay a lot extra to find out what the software says? It is a ripoff.

Last time I bought a new car I did not sign a specific release for license to the software. That means I bought all the bits. If they have info to withhold that is a specific license in the commercial world. If I own the hardware they specifically must state the software is not mine as well.

When the train is put on the track and leaves the station it is difficult to change direction or slow it down. Private shop owners can foresee the legislation moving from protecting the manufacturer’s investment to totally monopolizing the repair business. In a short time car parts could become a captive market. How much are brake pads at McParts compared to the dealer?

Have you guys worked at the Dealer, there was nothing the Dealer had that I needed that I could not get when I worked at an independant, I fail to see what the “product” is that is being witheld from the public.

Post a actual case where witheld info caused someone a loss, perhaps one exists, right now the argument just sounds like a good theoretical one.

All information can be withheld. From the firing order and front end alignment specifications to the dimensions of the crankshaft and pistons. We can currently input changes in tire diameters, re-program spark advance curves, etc., and get live data from the modules. Only the codes are mandated to be available currently.

I’m trying to figure out what he is saying here also. I have a high end scanner which will read all codes (Including manufacturer specific) My scanner will even flash PCM’s with software downloaded directly from the manufacturers.


Myself I could possibly see a information shortage in some system like active suspensions, climate control, and for sure transmission data exchange with the PCM (yes I know it can be read, but hard to interpet, not the job of the manufacture too teach you how to interpet) but who wants those jobs anyway?