Super Warranty Standards On Wrong TrackPosted 4/14/2005
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.
In the last year or so, state legislatures have seen a flurry of vehicle emissions standards legislation. The federal Clean Air Act sets federal vehicle emissions standards but allows states to adopt California's standards relative to low emissions vehicles (LEV II). The federal regulations guide vehicles to becoming 99 percent cleaner than the automobiles found on America's roads 30 years ago. Reductions in vehicle emissions as high as 70 percent will be evident compared to the automobiles prior to 2000.
The Automotive Service Association does not support the California emissions standard. Why? Because the California standards set forth in Title 13 of the California Code of Regulations require a 15-year/ 150,000-mile warranty.
Although several states are considering the California law, the state of Washington has become prominent for the automotive industry on this issue. Why should this be important to you as an independent repairer? All one has to do is review documents distributed by Washington's Puget Sound Clean Air Agency describing the differences in the federal clean air laws versus California:
Because of these substitutions the state of California estimates that 57 percent of new passenger cars will be partial zero-emission vehicles (PZEVs), including hybrids, by 2010 and 73 percent by 2020.
California standards require longer warranties, such as 150,000 miles or 15 years, on the emission control technologies on the PZEV.
If the Washington state legislation becomes law, it will take effect in 2009.
Within one year (2010), 57 percent of the vehicles will carry a 15-year/150,000-mile warranty. Washington does not have an ozone problem, so why would they let the state with the worst air quality regulate their vehicles?
Compounding the lack of need for this legislation is the minimal amount of air quality improvement that will result from these proposed changes. In a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding changes made by the California law, the EPA's director of Assessments and Standard Division at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory commented:
"Putting benefits in this perspective, we estimate LEV II will provide about 1 percent additional reduction in mobile source volatile organic compound (VOC), and about 2 percent reduction in air toxics over Tier 2 in 2020 with the program starting in the 2004 model year and lower with a later program start date."
With a later start date in Washington state, air quality improvements will be de minimus.
ASA is working with ASA-Washington to try to and stop the emissions legislation. Through direct mail, ASA's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com, and our state lobbyist coordinating efforts, we are hopeful the legislation will fail. What is apparent, though, is that without independent repairers contacting their senators and representatives, the legislation will most likely move forward. It is up to repairers to make their positions known to the state legislature.
The Washington state legislation presents an opportunity for repairers to stop the legislation from spreading to other states. With the correct arguments and a grassroots victory, other states' small-business professionals will feel empowered in the legislative process.
It is important that independent repairers stress to other automotive industry segments that this form of emissions legislation, these super warranties, are the greatest long-term threat to the repair industry, impacting parts distributors and parts manufacturers. Without vehicles entering the service bay for the length of time proposed by these warranties, independent repairers will close their doors.
For mechanical repairers, access to service information has been a top priority since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. ASA's service information agreement with the automakers resolved this problem. Repairers continue to obtain information from traditional information providers, using automaker Web sites when necessary and filing a limited number of complaints when there are issues with the sites. Note that every single complaint filed in calendar year 2004 was resolved in 2004. These complaints represented less than 1 percent of all repair service orders.
It is up to independent repairers to shift industry focus and debate from service information issues to preventing super warranties from shutting down repair shops. One important issue has been resolved with a process in place to address what has proven to be minimal concerns in a timely manner, while the super warranty issue hovers over the automotive industry - biding time - with little notice by an industry that it could eliminate.
With laws already on the books, it will be difficult to prevent new states from moving forward, but the automotive industry has an opportunity to do just that. Automotive manufacturers, dealers, independent repairers and members of the aftermarket must band together now to prevent a tragedy for each of us in the latter years of this legislation.
ASA is working in a coalition with the automobile manufacturers to stop this in several key states. Please encourage repairers and other automotive interests in your state to educate policymakers as to the flawed public policy of using vehicle warranties as a mechanism for a cleaner environment.
To track specific legislation in your state relative to super warranties, please go to ASA's legislative Web site at www.TakingTheHill.com.
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