The Auto Care Association (ACA) has released a nationwide sample-based survey that found 84% of the 407 individuals who participated view vehicle repair and maintenance data access as the top issue for their business.

The findings are being used by ACA to “reiterate the immediate need for the bipartisan Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR Act), which would ensure that vehicle owners and repairers of their choice have access to the vehicle data, tools, and software required to maintain modern vehicles.”

The last movement of the REPAIR Act (H.R. 906) was in November when it advanced out of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce.

Supporters of the REPAIR Act say it would ensure access to tools and equipment, wireless repair and diagnostic data, and on-board diagnostic and telematics systems that they claim are necessary to repair a vehicle. However, most, if not all of that, is already provided by automakers, perhaps not for free, but still accessible.

A March report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides a somewhat vague answer to the “right to repair” question — it isn’t a matter of access for independent repair shops; access exists, but is either limited by OEMs or at a cost that shops say they can’t afford.

While the ACA survey suggests that 63% of the respondents experience difficulties making routine repairs on a daily or weekly basis, this means 37% of the respondents do not.

On Wednesday, ACA described GAO’s report as “detailing how vehicle repair restrictions can ‘disadvantage’ independent repairers relative to dealerships.

The survey was conducted for ACA by Hanover Research from February 1-14. There were 407 individuals who responded, but it is unclear how many unique businesses were represented. ACA didn’t share if they included individuals from collision repair businesses. The study has a margin of error of 5%, according to ACA.

Repairer Driven News sent questions to ACA for more details about repairer representation within the sample of survey respondents but didn’t hear back by the publication deadline.

ACA says the results show:

    • “84% of independent repair shops view vehicle repair and maintenance data access as the top issue for their business, surpassing other timely considerations, like technician recruitment and retention and inflation.
    • “The majority (63%) of independent repair shops experience difficulties making routine repairs on a daily or weekly basis.
    • “Half of independent repair shops (51%) report sending up to five vehicles per month to the dealer due to vehicle data restrictions.
    • “Vehicle data limitations cost independent repair shops an estimated $3.1 billion each year.”

Vehicle data restrictions disproportionately hurt small independent repair businesses by making it harder for them to offer certain repair services and parts to their customers leaving customers with no other choice than taking their vehicles to dealerships, according to ACA.

In a Wednesday news release, ACA cited a March Consumer Reports (CR) article about car owners favoring independent repair facilities over dealerships.

CR’s survey asked consumers to rate repair shops based on 12 attributes: honesty, price, quality of the work, amount of time it took to complete repairs, communication about repairs, whether or not the problems were fixed the first time, accuracy of the initial cost estimate, the shop’s willingness to negotiate on price, the presence of free perks with service (such as car washes, loaner cars, and shuttle service), if discounts were offered, proximity or convenience of the shop’s location, and if guarantees or warranties were offered for the work that was done.

Bill Hanvey, ACA president and CEO, said in the release that his association’s survey findings represent 273,000 independent shops that” will be forced to turn away more and more business.”

“The REPAIR Act is critically needed to protect America’s vibrant network of local, independent repair shops that offer trusted service, convenience, and choice to millions of American drivers during the car repair process,” Hanvey said.

In March, ACA launched a new video campaign in support of the REPAIR Act on behalf of vehicle owners and repair shops.


Featured image: Stock photo taken inside an automotive repair shop. (Credit: Photo_Concepts/iStock)

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