January 27th, 2011 By NIGEL JAQUISS | News | Posted In: Legislature, Politics, CLEAN UP

Independent Car Repair Shops Look to Salem for Help

Oregon State Capitol.Oregon's Capitol Building

 


Independent auto repair shops are angry at manufacturers and are taking their ire to Salem.

Their issue is the increased computerization of automobile controls. Not so long ago, any competent mechanic could raise a car hood, diagnose a problem, and make the necessary adjustments.

But today's cars contain a dizzying array of computerized functions—some vehicles may include 20 computers—and independent operators say the manufacturers are refusing to share the codes that would allow them to work on the cars.

The economic impact of refusing to share the codes is billions of dollars in repair work going to auto dealers rather than independent repair shops. Independent dealers peg the size of the national "after-market" of spending on autos after they're bought at $267 billion. Oregon's share of that business is estimated at $3.5 billion.


Barbara Crest, executive director of the Northwest Automotive Trades Association, says her group has been meeting with lawmakers to introduce the concept of computer codes being transferred to vehicle owners, rather than remaining the property of manufacturers.

The issue is national and the independent repair shops make their case here. Crest says independent shops have introduced legislation in other states, primarily on the East Coast, but have not yet succeeded in getting new laws passed.

Crest says manufacturers lease code information to independent repair shops but that does not always happen in a timely fashion. And she says the information shared is not always complete. The result she says is inconvenience and extra cost for vehicle owners. 

"It's a consumer issue," says Crest. "We're not talking about warranties or anything like that."


 
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