The Right to Represent

As the ‘Sharing of Information’ debate unfolds, questions continue to be asked about who is truly representing the interests of Australia’s new car Dealers.

In the last issue of Automotive Dealer, the AADA shed light on the debate surrounding access to manufacturer repair information for Dealers and independent repairers.
While parties such as the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) continue to argue that greater access to repair information is required by independent repairers, the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) has found that there is ‘limited and conflicting evidence’ to support this.

The AAAA which represents parts manufacturers, including accessories, tools and equipment in Australia, has done much lobbying using their ‘right to repair’ campaign, which AADA believes should more appropriately be called, ‘right to manufacture’- but more on that later.

The sharing of information debate has also uncovered the significant conflict that industry bodies like the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) experience as they try to represent both sides of the argument. As the debate continues to unfold, this is becoming clearer, with more examples emerging of inconsistent information and actions on the VACC’s behalf.

For example, in the government report Sharing of Repair Information in the Automotive Industry published in November 2012, VACC states in their written submission that for vehicles sold between 2008 and 2010:

‘The level of information available from manufacturers (the Automotive Service Information Matrix) has highlighted the limited availability of vehicle repair information for Australian independent repairers.’

They go on to state that:

‘Information is not available for 17 per cent of the passenger vehicles sold, 44 per cent of the SUV vehicles sold, and 13 per cent of the light commercial vehicle segment.’
Despite these quoted statistics, in a recent VACC publication for Tech-Online – a repair information resource offered to members and non-members alike, it’s clearly stated that 98% of service and repair requests are able to be resolved on first enquiry.

Even with this substantial jump in information availability, the VACC, along with the Australian Motor Industry Federation (AMIF), Australian Automobile Association (AAA) and the AAAA all rejected a Draft Code initiated by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) designed to put this matter to rest in a meeting in March.
Since then, in a subsequent meeting in April, the parties have agreed to consider a draft agreement, ensuring that access to repair information does not become a problem in the future. The document, to be signed by all parties including the AADA, will state that OEMs will make repair information available at a reasonable cost through internet-based delivery protocols.

AADA believes this will be a statement of what already exists and will therefore not resolve the real, hidden issues at hand.
Increasingly, the problem does not seem to be a lack of repair information, but too much information, caused by the complexity of the modern motor vehicle fleet. While VACC provides technical support services to any workshop in Australia covering 98% of matters, the AAA’s focus has now shifted to ‘telemetrics’ and ownership of the sensitive data that’s captured by on-board computers fitted to many modern cars.

The AAA, as per a statement on their website, supports and coordinates the activities of [their] constituent motoring clubs and represents the interests of all Australian motorists at a national and international level. High profile members include NRMA, RACV, RACQ, RAASA, RACWA, RACT and AANT.

This new issue surrounding ownership of data has nothing to do with repair information; instead it’s about retrieving vehicle operational information required for warranty and ongoing development purposes. It is of no value to independent operators. In fact, many independents do not have the training nor equipment to access and manage this data or any valid reason for doing so.

Ultimately, the AADA and FCAI are attempting to draft a Code that is meant to satisfy both the AAAA and AAA, both of which have vastly different views on this topic.

The VACC’s previous resistance to the proposed Code seems less to do with access to repair information, of which 98 per cent is available, and more about obligation to aftermarket members, who are seeking greater access to the 2 per cent of information embedded within new-car computers and electronics systems. This information is not needed to repair and maintain a vehicle, but is essential to the manufacturing of non-genuine parts.

So where does that leave Australia’s new car Dealers?

Quite simply, it’s impossible for an Association which represents various segments of the Victorian motoring industry to wholeheartedly represent AADA members effectively.

As such, the newly formed AADA will continue to fight solely in the interests of automotive Dealers, to remove misinformation and ensure a fair outcome for its Dealer members.

Moving forward, the AADA will continue to participate in meetings with the Commonwealth Ombudsman and industry bodies concerning the FCAI Draft Code of Practice. The AADA along with, AMIF, VACC, AAA and AAAA are working towards an agreed ‘Code of Practice’ to be finalised by no later than 30 August 2014.

For updates on the progress of this matter, look out for our next issue and also, follow us on Twitter @AADA_ASN.

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