A bill designed to force auto makers to provide diagnostic repair codes to independent service shops passed an early legislative test in June, narrowly making it though a congressional subcommittee by a 14-13 vote.
Auto makers had agreed previously to make some repair information available to independent shops. But lobby groups such as the Coalition for Auto Repair for Equality (CARE), which represents aftermarket firms, claim car companies have been slow to provide what they want.
Automotive electronics have advanced to a point where working on a vehicle's systems is nearly impossible without the OEM diagnostic codes. As a result, independent shops, in trying to maintain an equal footing with dealerships, are trying to get access to applicable data.
Auto makers, meanwhile, believe giving too much of the data poses a threat to their business. They say competitors, such as aftermarket-parts firms and including companies in China, can use the data to reverse engineer proprietary systems.
If the Right to Repair Act becomes law, it could hurt auto dealerships. Many of them rely on their service departments to offset declines in profit margins from new-car sales. According to the National Automobile Dealers Assn., service revenue makes up 11.6% of total revenue for an average dealership.
Despite its early success, the bill has tough challenges ahead. Until recently, the legislation had 106 co-sponsors, but four dropped their sponsorship, claiming changes to the bill rendered it ineffective.
In its current form, the bill does not dictate specific information auto makers are to provide. Nor does it allow for civil lawsuits to be filed except by the Federal Trade Commission.
Next up for the bill is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, although a date has not been set.