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AAAA loses patience on repair data sharing

Stuart Charity
Stuart Charity

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has been busy campaigning for broader access to vehicle repair information since issue 5 of SightGlass News.

Frustrated by the slow response of car companies to share data – with only Holden offering a portal that satisfies the and eight others providing insufficient information – the AAAA has taken the issue to the Federal Government and is demanding that it forces manufacturers to comply.

Inspired by the approach taken in the United States, the AAAA is now calling for calling for the establishment of a ‘National Automotive Repair and Servicing Portal’.

The proposed system would provide independent workshops with universal access to data, software and training – including that for apprentices – on a subscription basis with funds paid to the car manufacturers in return for the information.

In an opinion article published by The Australian newspaper, the AAAA warned that the increasing computerisation and complexity of vehicles could eventually result in independent repairers being unable to maintain and repair newer models.

“It is also vital for all sides of politics to recognise that the demand for vehicle servicing is five times the capacity of dealer network in Australia,” AAAA executive director Stuart Charity told the national broadsheet.

Stuart Charity
Stuart Charity

“The Federal Government, with bipartisan support, needs to implement regulation that will ensure full and cost effective access to vehicle data for the repair and maintenance of vehicles, which is a critical consumer and environmental issue.”

In the meantime, the AAAA has been meeting with Members of Parliament with a view to making Small Business Minister and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer establish the national portal by the end of 2016.

The AAAA wants the Federal Government to:

  • Immediately move to provide the Australian community with a robust and effective National   Automotive Repair and Servicing Portal based on the principles and legislative framework of the US model
  • Announce funding and the timetable to put the National Automotive Repair and Servicing Portal in place by the end of 2016
  • Outline the administrative arrangement for the establishment and management of the National Automotive Repair and Servicing Portal

In a statement, Mr Charity said there is currently “no guarantee that tens of thousands of independent mechanics in the automotive repair and servicing industry across the nation, not aligned to dealerships, can access basic information from manufacturers of behalf of millions of Australian vehicle owners”.

Senator Muir weighs in

Victorian Senator Ricky Muir also stood up for consumers and independent repairers with questions in Parliament on December 1, asking if the Federal Government was planning to review the progress of the voluntary industry agreement forged a year prior and facilitated by former Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.

Senator Muir
Senator Muir

Senator Muir asked whether the Government considering reviewing the effectiveness of the voluntary codes of conduct, given the agreement stated that progress would be reviewed 12 months from their effective date.

Representing Small Businesses on behalf of Kelly O’Dwyer, who now holds the small business portfolio alongside her responsibilities as Assistant Treasurer, Finance Minister and Senator Mathias Cormann responded.

Senator Cormann
Senator Cormann

Quoting the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Code of Practice, which states that “an initial review of the Code must be conducted within eighteen months of the commencement of the Code”, Senator Cormann said he expected the review to be conducted by August 2016.

However the AAAA contends that Senator Muir was correct that the original agreement was 12 months rather than 18 months.

Senator Muir followed up with statistics showing that 42 per cent of the 6.5 million vehicle owners who have their vehicles serviced use an independent repairer and asked what the Government intended to do in order to “protect the consumer’s choice of repairer”.

In response, Senator Cormann said the Government was well aware of the AAAA’s concerns about access to repair data and cited the agreement’s inclusion of a dispute resolution process that can “notify the steering committee of any breaches to the agreement by other participating members”.

Finally, Senator Muir asked whether the Government would “commit to a solution that involves the mandatory sharing of vehicle diagnostic and repair information”.

Senator Cormann said he was not in a position to make that commitment but assured Senator Muir that the Government “is open to listening further to the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association’s concern in relation to these matters and will be monitoring the effectiveness of the code in the lead-up to the 18-months review”.

“I encourage the AAAA to engage with this process,” he added.