CHASING PHANTOM INFORMATION

Whilst some other auto industry associations insist that service and repair information is not available to independent repairers, evidence continues to suggest that it is.

In recent times, the campaign for access to repair information has been reignited by some associations in the auto industry. In previous editions of Automotive Dealer we’ve reported extensively on the issue of availability of repair information for independent mechanics. AADA is confident that independent repairers who genuinely wish to own vehicle repair information, already have access to the data needed to service and repair any vehicle on Australian roads. The information is available at a reasonable cost for all parties, independent or Dealer, through a number of different delivery methods. It’s also important to remember that Dealers trade vehicles outside of the franchise brand they sell.

Just like most independent repairers, Dealers have to buy service and repair information too.

This availability of repair information is validated in many forms. For example, promotional material from The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) states that extensive repair information is available to all independent repairers in Australia. Whilst there is a small cost for non-VACC members, ultimately ‘98 percent of technical enquiries received by the VACC’ are answered and resolved, according to AADA Chairman, Ian Field. What’s more, a 2012 review by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) found that there does not appear to be any evidence of systemic consumer detriment regarding the sharing of service and repair information in the automotive industry. To ensure this continues to be the case, CCAAC recommended that the automotive industry develop an outcome that ensures there is a process for independent repairers to access repair information.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has been heavily involved in a Voluntary Code of Practice relating to access to service and repair information. As part of the Code process, the FCAI actively contacted all parties involved to reassure them about the FCAI’s commitment to the Agreement process. Though initially it seemed that all were seeking a positive and cooperative outcome, at this stage it would appear that a unified industry positon may be some way off.

So, what information is really being sought?

Vehicle security data that interacts with computerised control systems is one example of information that is not made easily available. Most of the time, this information is off-limits to Dealers as well. This, AADA believes, is wise. It would be irresponsible to make sensitive and private data like this easily accessible. Do Australian consumers want everyone to be able to tamper with emission control settings or to remove safety equipment, like air bags, or to produce extra keys to control their cars?

Not likely.

According to Ian Field, some parties are trying to access sensitive information for their own commercial gain… ‘What I think they want is the algorithms inside the Engine Management System (EMS) so they can make non-genuine parts compatible with the EMS… There is no reason for the dealerships to have access to this information [either]. The factories don’t want anyone tinkering with emissions settings or fuel mixture settings, they want those settings to be locked in place by the EMS’ he said.

Specialisation is the key

The days of independent repairers servicing every car are over. Every year the new car fleet increases in complexity and demands better knowledge and equipment. Understandably, most local mechanics don’t have the means to purchase the necessary equipment and information to repair complex one-off vehicles. Instead, specific equipment to service the needs of particular groups of vehicles should be the aim.

According to Ian Field independent repairers need to decide what they will specialise in: ‘No single independent repairer can service every make and model that exists in the Australian market place, there are just too many. According to VACC they have records on 7000 makes and models. You have to specialise to be able to service modern motor vehicles’ he said. Moving forward, Australian motor dealers already work closely with independent repairers to ensure that consumers have genuine choice in their preferred service or repair supplier. AADA members throughout Australia assist many independent repairers who need support in servicing modern vehicles. Many independent repairers buy their genuine parts from the Dealer community.

The AADA will continue to encourage all parties to adopt the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) drafted code. The Code helps ensure that the service and repair of motor vehicles in Australia is carried out in a way that protects the consumer. This is at odds with the misinformation being pushed by some other parties, seemingly to forward their own commercial gain. In order to truly achieve a result that ensures the safety of the consumer as well as a fair playing field for all motor vehicle repairers, cooperation between Associations is paramount.

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