'Billion Dollar Baby:' Right to RepairPosted 2/15/2006
By Rep. Lynn Westmoreland
We can ensure that Americans can repair their vehicles easily and affordably without creating a new federal bureaucracy.
The so-called Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act is a solution in search of a problem. It offers federal meddling on an issue that the private sector has already successfully addressed.
Since the mid-1990s, car manufacturers have implemented high-tech computer systems that are now integral to auto parts manufacturing and car repairs. Obviously, your neighborhood garage needs more than a few good wrenches to repair vehicles these days. To do the job, they must have manufacturer-specific information and specialized tools.
To confront this challenge, the auto manufacturers launched a private-sector initiative earlier this decade to provide this information to independent auto repair facilities. According to mom-and-pop repair shop owners in Georgia's 8th Congressional District, this program - the National Automotive Service Task Force - provides them with all of the information they need for car repair and maintenance.
Hard evidence supports that assertion. Last year, there were approximately 500 million repairs performed at independent auto repair shops, but only 48 complaints to the NASTF about lack of access to manufacturer information. Each of those complaints was resolved, most within 24 hours.
Advocates for the Right to Repair Act hide behind small-business rhetoric. Yet, the group pushing the bill, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), represents big business parts distributors.
The bill would give aftermarket parts dealers access to auto manufacturers' intellectual property by requiring them to turn over this information to the Federal Trade Commission. I must note here that the Federal Trade Commission testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that it does not want this responsibility.
With this information, the parts dealers could manufacture new parts at a fraction of the cost because they don't have to pay for the research and development. They wouldn't even have to be bothered with the cost of reverse engineering. You've heard of the movie, "Million Dollar Baby." For CARE's members, this bill is the "Billion Dollar Baby," with automakers fronting the money at federal gunpoint.
With this much money at stake, CARE is pulling out all the stops to see its cash cow pass Congress, even running weeks of radio attack ads against me in my district. The ads said that if I get my way, your grandmother will be stranded on the side of the road until the dealership opens in the morning.
These ridiculous ads raise the obvious question: If the issue is really about car repair, why are the ads being paid for by companies that aren't in the auto repair business?
As a conservative, I don't think the federal government needs to stick its nose in battery replacements and transmission repairs when the private sector has a workable solution. The fact is, automakers have an incentive to make their cars easy to repair. Automakers that make the process difficult and expensive aren't going to have many repeat customers.
Parts dealers don't care about the right to repair. They're seeking a right to rip-offs.
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