Corner Office Steve Kalafer

//August 21, 2009

Corner Office Steve Kalafer

//August 21, 2009

Repair legislation is a solution in search of a problemMaking its way through the halls of the Statehouse in Trenton is proposed legislation known as the “Right to Repair” bill (A-803/S-1334). Allegedly, the proposed bill would force vehicle manufacturers to provide vehicle owners and repair facilities with the information necessary to diagnose, service or repair a motor vehicle. In reality, this legislation may allow after-market auto parts manufacturers to quickly reverse-engineer auto parts at the cost of automobile manufacturers and the 1.3 million Americans they employ.

Over the past eight years, the U.S. Congress has rejected attempts to pass “Right to Repair” legislation, recognizing that the proposed bill is a solution in search of a problem. Supporters of this legislation, having gained no ground at the federal level, are now marketing the bill in state legislatures throughout the United States, including New Jersey. The New Jersey Legislature should put the brakes on this unnecessary bill and focus its efforts toward legislating workable solutions that address real problems.

Failure to pass this legislation at the federal level and in every state legislature in which it has been introduced should send a very clear message about the need and merits of this bill to New Jersey lawmakers. The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission both have testified before Congress about the value of the existing voluntary industry solution — National Automotive Service Task Force — and the lack of consumer or business complaints regarding this issue. In fact, Consumer Reports magazine published an article on this issue stating “the proponents’ own data and congressional testimony show that the problem the bill reports to address has already been solved.”

While being promoted as a solution that would help small repair facilities and their customers get access to repair codes, this legislation is not narrowly focused on service information, but rather on a desire by after-market parts manufacturers to obtain sensitive, proprietary information to more cheaply and more quickly reverse-engineer auto parts.

Unfortunately, proponents of the legislation have convinced some New Jersey legislators, like Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos (R-Middletown) and Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Edison), that a problem does exist — that automobile manufacturers do not cooperate with small repair facilities, and that legislative action is required. The fact of the matter is that auto manufacturers throughout the United States, and here in New Jersey, have been working cooperatively with repair facilities on a voluntary industry solution that is working.

As far back as 2002, auto manufacturers formed an agreement with the Automotive Service Association to establish a program to address the concerns of the independent repair facilities. In conjunction with that agreement and commitment to share information, the National Automotive Service Task Force was born.

Through the NASTF, automakers continue to work with members of the service industry to resolve problems involving motor vehicle repairs. This program is working. In 2007, out of an estimated 500 million post-warranty repairs performed, NASTF received only 56 requests regarding the lack of service information or access to diagnostic tools. To put that into perspective, approximately 75 percent of post-warranty vehicle repairs are performed by independent repair shops.

Sponsors of the bill must recognize that this is bad policy. The long-standing voluntary industry solution has been in place since 2002, and data confirm that the process is working.

With all due respect to our elected officials, voters of this great state did not send them to Trenton to develop solutions for problems that do not exist, and to legalize the piracy of intellectual property. Please follow the lead of your colleagues in the U.S. Congress and say no to “Right to Repair.”


Steve Kalafer is chairman of Flemington Car and Truck Country Family of Dealerships, based in Flemington.

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