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Auto aftermarket campaign stepped up

Big business: The $8 billion automotive aftermarket industry is showing its wares at its bi-annual trade expo in Melbourne.

Aftermarket industry looks to Canberra for data access equality under design rules

12 May 2011

THE Australian automotive aftermarket industry expects to know within weeks if its two-year campaign to gain the same access to motor vehicle manufacturer technical and diagnostic information as motor dealers will find a foothold at federal government level.

Representatives of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) – representing 1300 aftermarket parts, accessory and workshop equipment manufacturers and importers in an industry worth a claimed $8 billion a year – will meet with parliamentary secretary to the treasurer, David Bradbury, on June 1 to receive his feedback on a proposal to enshrine the right to access to the information in the Australian Design Rules (ADRs).

They are also expecting to hear the latest on the warranty issue, which they say Mr Bradbury – whose ministerial responsibilities include competition and consumer policy – promised to raise with state consumer ministers.

Speaking at the bi-annual Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo in Melbourne today, AAAA executive director Stuart Charity said the independent, non-dealer aftermarket service and repair sector was finding it increasingly difficult to access the latest information required to service and maintain vehicles.

He said the aftermarket parts industry was inextricably linked with independent repairers who needed access to information such as electronic settings in modern engine management, traction control systems and electronic stability control systems, as well as panel repair information.

“If the workshops close down because they can’t do repairs on modern vehicles, our industry closes as well,” he said.

 center imageTop: AAAA executive director Stuart Charity. Middle: Former vice president of the US Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, Lee Kandrich. Bottom: Choice of Repairer logo.

In 2009, the AAAA launched a campaign called Choice of Repairer, modelled on a campaign in the United States where the aftermarket industry is fighting a similar battle.

A former vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, Lee Kadrich, will be the keynote speaker on the subject at the show this week.

Mr Kadrich said yesterday that the American industry was “moving the ball state to state” on the matter, with Massachusetts state legislators set to vote on the issue next month, and moves afoot to introduce a similar bill in Oregon.

He said the US aftermarket industry hoped that if sufficient states passed legislation to mandate access to the information from original equipment manufacturers, the US congress would eventually follow suit.

Mr Kadrich said independent repairers in the US had also started a public campaign with “yard signs” asking car owners if they had “asked your congressmen about your right to repair”.

Mr Charity said Europe had already adopted laws protecting the right of access of independent repairers to the electronic data and other information from manufacturers – rules that he described as “the holy grail”.

He said the AAAA was not demanding free access for independent repairers to the information, but would be willing to pay for it in the same way as dealers.

Mr Charity said his organisation had met with Mr Bradbury in November to express their views.

“He was very concerned about the issue and he believed there is a role for government to play in the solution moving forward,” Mr Charity said.

“His view was that access to technical and diagnostic information should be treated separately to the warranty issue, even though they are inter-related.”

Mr Charity said Mr Bradbury was investigating the possibility of enshrining the right to the information in the ADRs, rather than “a choice of repairer act” which would take a long time to prepare and pass through parliament.

“So, addressing it through the ADRs is probably the way he is looking into it,” he said.

“He (Mr Bradbury) was going to talk to the transport minister, Anthony Albanese, and departmental officials and report back to us.

“Warranty is a different thing because it is state and federal jurisdiction, and in fact, states have a big role in enforcing it.

“His view on warranty is that he will raise it through the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) process where all the consumer affairs, state and federal ministers get together.

“So we are meeting with him on June 1 and we will find out where he has got to in terms of his negotiations there.”

Mr Charity said AAAA was prepared for a prolonged battle on the issue, and was prepared to negotiate with the car industry to find a solution.

“If they (the motor manufacturers) say we don’t want to know about it, and then we will go to the public at the grass roots,” he said.

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