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AAAA calls for mandatory data sharing

Matter of trust: The AAAA has called for mandatory data sharing between car manufacturers and independent repairers, arguing that the current voluntary scheme is not working.

VW scandal proves car-makers hold the cards and will not willingly share data: AAAA

16 Oct 2015

THE Volkswagen diesel emissions-rigging scandal is living proof that car-makers “cannot be “trusted” to provide full and accurate information on their vehicles to regulators and that data sharing with independent repairers should be mandatory, according to the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA).

AAAA chief executive Stuart Charity said this week that the voluntary data-sharing scheme trial period car-makers in Australia signed up to is about to reach its 12-month deadline – and that it had scored the industry’s efforts so far at “D-minus”.

Mr Charity wants urgent talks with the federal government with the aim of reining in what he describes as the car-makers’ arrogant approach to the software that controls vehicles and the relevant technical data behind them.

“The Volkswagen scandal is a perfect example of what we have been talking about for seven years,” he said.

“It’s the power that the car companies have over the operation of the vehicle and all aspects of the vehicle, and the fact that they are not, in many cases, the great corporate citizens that they make out they are.”

Mr Charity said the car-makers claim they need to keep secret their data and software because it is proprietary information and also to maintain the safety and security of their vehicles.

“But the problem is they then rely on other parties – governments and other players – to trust them and, clearly, they cannot be trusted,” he said. “That’s a problem.”

Mr Charity said there had to be a way for governments to verify the information they are given by car manufacturers.

“You can’t have a situation where the car industry can pick or choose what information is provided and under what circumstances,” he said.

Mr Charity said the poor efforts by the car-makers to comply with the data-sharing agreement they all signed up to via the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) indicated that the federal government’s voluntary approach was not going to work.

“We have always been of the view that it will have to be mandatory. We are going through a (voluntary) process now but, unfortunately, we have a situation where the car industry has a commercial interest in maintaining the status quo,” he said.

“What we have seen in Europe and North America is that it has taken the mandatory approach to get the industry to comply.”

Mr Charity said the federal government was unlikely to go straight to a mandatory solution “because regulation is a last resort here”.

“Many governments, including the current government, have got an agenda to reduce regulation and red tape, so it’s a big step to put regulation in, but we believe that it is required and necessary,” he said.

According to the AAAA, only nine of the 68 brands on the Australian market had so far made any attempt to provide crucial service and repair information to the independent repair sector.

“When we say nine companies have complied, that’s pretty loose,” Mr Charity said.

“All Jaguar Land Rover has done is put up their online technical manuals. There is no diagnostic information.

“The Toyota site is nothing like the Toyota US or Toyota Europe site.

“Ford produces some information from the US site, but it has not got the Australian information.”“This is well short of acceptable. It’s a D-minus.

“The one exception to the rule is Holden with their AC Delco site, which is now populated with Australian vehicle-specific information.

“About the only thing Holden is not providing at the moment is Australian-specific technical service bulletins and online training, which they do in the US. So we give them a tick.

“(But) none of them are meeting the agreement to the letter, no, and many are falling well short.”

The AAAA has opened an online portal where independent repairers can report back on their experiences about obtaining repair and service information under the voluntary agreement.

“We’ll go back to the government after the 12 months and present the information back to them and, if there hasn’t been any meaningful movement, then we’ll be advocating very strongly that the car industry has had more than enough time to comply and we don’t believe they will voluntarily,” Mr Charity said.

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