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ARA – The fight for vehicle-generated data access

Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), Emil Nusbaum, tells us more about how the association has been hard at work fighting for federal legislation that would safeguard vehicle owners’ right to access and control vehicle-generated data.


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Emil Nusbaum

It has been almost two years since Massachusetts residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of a ballot measure requiring automotive manufacturers to provide vehicle owners with access to and control over diagnostic and repair data generated by their vehicles. However, while the automakers litigate the legality of the provision, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) has been hard at work fighting for federal legislation that would safeguard vehicle owners’ right to access and control vehicle-generated data. Federal vehicle data access legislation for motor vehicles is needed for the following reasons: (1) to protect vehicle owners’ ability to repair their vehicles with affordable repair parts at a repair shop of their choice; (2) to protect vehicle owners from original equipment manufacturers needlessly undermining a vehicle owner’s ability to fix their vehicle – thereby placing an artificial expiration on a vehicle owner’s primary method of transportation; and (3) to protect several industries that will otherwise be crippled by manufacturers’ withholding of critically important data.

Over the last year, ARA has been a leader in advocating for the rights of vehicle owners by serving on the American Alliance for Vehicle Owners’ Rights (AAVOR) steering committee. AAVOR is a diverse group united by the common goal of guaranteeing the right of all vehicle owners to have access to and control of vehicle-generated data. AAVOR’s members represent interests from across the mobility ecosystem. Members include automotive recyclers, consumer advocates, automotive repairers, insurers, fleet owners, shared mobility service providers, and telematics providers. AAVOR’s members (including ARA) have been working to educate members of Congress and their staff on the need for vehicle owners to have access to and control of vehicle-generated data.

With the increase in computerized systems that govern individual components that were once relatively simple to replace, it is increasingly necessary that vehicle owners and independent repairers have access to repair and maintenance data. Vehicle owners are becoming increasingly reliant on OEMs and their dealer networks to carry out motor vehicle repairs because many repair jobs require that replacement parts be calibrated and synchronized with the vehicle’s computer systems. By withholding data necessary to make vehicle repairs from independent repairers, OEM dealer networks become the only option for parts and repairs and unfairly eliminate independent repairers and alternative parts suppliers.

Withholding this essential repair and maintenance data forces vehicle owners to pay more to repair their vehicles. According to one of the leading collision estimating systems used by the vehicle insurance and repair industry, “the notion that a typical repair is $1,000-$1,500 is no longer true. It is probably closer to $3,500-$5,000.” Furthermore, costs of vehicle repairs are likely much higher than $5,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed significant stressors on the motor vehicle industry’s supply chains. Now more than ever, vehicle owners and independent repairers need repair and maintenance data so that vehicle owners can choose to have their vehicles repaired with affordable parts from independent repairers.

By eliminating alternative replacement parts and repair options, OEMs can create a situation where there is an artificial expiration date on a motor vehicle due to the lack of available replacement parts. Typically, OEMs produce replacement parts for a vehicle line for only a few years while the vehicle is under the manufacturer’s warranty. OEMs do not always manufacture and have a widely available inventory of new replacement vehicle parts for vehicles five years old or older. This scenario creates an environment where there is limited supply of new parts offered directly through OEM and dealer networks, which raises costs for vehicle owners. The limited supply of new OEM parts further highlights the need for consumers to have access to more replacement part options.

ARA is continuing to work with its AAVOR partners on educating members of Congress on the importance of access to vehicle-generated data. ARA is looking forward to following developments with Congress’s newly created Vehicle Data Access Caucus, which is a bipartisan initiative that aims to bring real solutions regarding vehicle data privacy to the House Floor.

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