Automotive Parts Policy
Will Be Profiled in 2010
By Robert L. Redding Jr.
NCOIL Delays Automotive Crash Parts Model Bill Decision
Automotive parts policy at the state and federal level should be quite active in 2010. The National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) recent action at their annual meeting in New Orleans ensures airbags and crash parts will again be subjects of debate in state legislatures during the 2010 legislative sessions.
At the federal level, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have introduced companion legislation H.R. 3059 and S. 1368, the Access to Repair Parts Act, respectively.
NCOIL has been busy this year with two Model Acts:
• Model Act Regarding Auto Airbag Fraud
• Model Act Regarding Motor Vehicle Crash Parts and Repair
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) voiced concern about both Model Act proposals. Harry Moppert, the owner of an ASA-member collision shop, testified in Philadelphia earlier this year at NCOIL hearings on the Model Acts.
ASA agreed with some provisions of the Airbag Fraud Model Act but opposed the Act's affirmation of the use of salvage airbags. Moppert stated in his NCOIL hearing comments,
"Although the proposed model legislation before your Committee includes elements that make some significant improvements to current law, it fails to address a critical issue; salvage airbags should not be used in vehicle repair. The airbag cover and installation stipulations, recordkeeping, police accident reports, and penalties are certainly helpful to the process but at the end of the day, salvage airbags put vehicle occupants at more risk than necessary.
"Repairers want to use original equipment manufacturer (OEM) airbags where reliability and performance are tested, warranted and proven. Administering a law as proposed today will be a nightmare for state regulators and law enforcement. With states suffering from diminished economic resources, proper enforcement of this statute would be difficult at best.
"ASA asks the Committee to remove salvage airbags as an option for airbag replacement. These airbags may be inferior in quality and not handled appropriately prior to the repair. Our members have witnessed salvage yards that leave these airbags exposed to the elements for long periods of time prior to sale. Removing salvage airbags from the marketplace will be another step to assure the motoring public is less at risk of airbag fraud and defective airbags."
NCOIL adopted language for the Airbag Fraud Model Act that requires auto repairers to "place a permanent label on a dashboard indicating that the facility had installed a salvaged airbag." The Model Act is just a recommendation to state legislatures. The legislation will still have to be introduced and move through the legislative and regulatory process in states demonstrating interest.
NCOIL has delayed action on the Model Act Regarding Motor Vehicle Crash Parts. ASA originally opposed the proposed parts bill for several reasons:
• Bill attempted to equate certified aftermarket auto parts with OEM parts
• Weak vehicle owner parts authorization process
This Model Act also contains "Choice of Repair Facility" language that continues to evolve. NCOIL deferred review of the Parts Model Act until its spring meeting in Charleston, S.C.
The parts legislation Congress is now considering, H.R. 3059, highlights the lack of focus Washington has placed on automotive parts quality. Lofgren introduced this legislation in the 110th Congress but it was not considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
Although Congress has tasked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with ensuring vehicle safety, including parts, the quality of automotive parts has not been a top priority for NHTSA. ASA has stressed to federal policymakers that parts quality and safety are of serious concern and worthy of federal regulation.
In a letter to the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee (included below), ASA and other interested associations commented, "Accordingly, the manufacturer of the original product for whom such unlicensed replacement parts are made does not know how these parts will perform and how their use will impact the quality and integrity of the original product. Automotive collision repairers are very concerned about the quality of replacement crash parts. Permitting this intellectual property infringement also exposes consumers to significant safety, performance or durability risks."
Neither the House Judiciary nor the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled consideration of these parts bills. As Congress closes the first session of the 111th Congress, it is unlikely these bills will be on the Committee calendars until later in 2010, if at all.
To review the NCOIL proposed Model Acts and ASA action items on these Acts, go to www.TakingTheHill.com. The site also contains information related to H.R. 3059 and S. 1368.
Bob Redding is the Automotive Service Association's Washington, D.C., representative. He is a member of several federal and state advisory committees involved in the automotive industry.
For more information about the legislative activities of ASA, visit www.TakingTheHill.com.
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