While repairing a customer's 2002 Audi, technicians at Jim's Automotive learned they would need a special computer code to remove the car's radio to get to a component behind the dashboard.
When they called Audi, however, the auto maker's response sounded increasingly familiar to Jim Maddox, who founded the southeast Albuquerque shop in 1986 to service vehicles from Volvo, Saab, Volkswagen, Toyota and other marques.
“They said, ‘we don't sell tools to the aftermarket,’” Maddox tells the Albuquerque Journal. “We had to send the customer to the dealer.”
He is among shop owners around the country who want Congress to force auto makers to make increasingly specialized computer codes and tools used to diagnose and repair vehicles available to independent mechanics, not just to dealerships.
“You can call almost any independent shop in Albuquerque and get the same information — they're having trouble getting these codes,” Richard Cottrill, executive vice president of the New Mexico Automotive Parts and Service Association, tells the Journal.
Representatives for dealerships and manufacturers say they need to recoup the millions spent on meeting stringent vehicle safety, performance and emission standards, and training technicians to repair their products. And dealers have to pay for specialized equipment, too, they say, often to the tune of thousands of dollars per year.
“If the manufacturer or dealer made the investment to do a better job, well, that's competition,” says Charles Henson, executive director of the New Mexico Auto Dealers Assn.
“It doesn't seem fair to make manufacturers and dealers responsible for making that investment, then turn it over to someone with nothing to do with that investment,” he tells the Albuquerque newspaper. “That just doesn't follow the course of what business is all about.”