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Car companies drag repair data sharing chain

Mandatory Code of Practice now the only option: AAAA

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) says the majority of car manufacturers are behaving exactly as expected in response to the Heads of Agreement on Access to Service and Repair Information for Motor Vehicles that was signed in December last year.

Almost a year on, only Holden has shared comprehensive vehicle repair information with independent workshops through its AC Delco Technical Delivery System. Other manufacturers have made information available, but what they are offering still falls short of what was agreed.

Holden headquarters in Port Melbourne
Holden headquarters in Port Melbourne

AAAA executive director Stuart Charity told SightGlass News the car companies have shot themselves in the foot by dragging the chain because the next step following a failed voluntary agreement is a mandatory Code of Practice backed by government legislation.

“Quite frankly I think the car industry is being quite stupid about it,” he said.

“If they went ahead and complied with the Heads of Agreement that would be a much better outcome for them than what will happen if the Government regulates them in this area.

Stuart Charity with Small Business Minister Bruce Billson
Stuart Charity with Small Business Minister Bruce Billson

“We are now advocating that all bets are off and that Australia should be mirroring the US regulation, which is much more stringent than the Heads of Agreement.”

The AAAA credits former Small Business Minister Bruce Billson as instrumental in securing the voluntary agreement and issued a statement thanking him for that and his passionate advocacy for small business when it was announced that he would lose his Cabinet position as part of new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Charity said the AAAA had been trying to get a meeting with his Mr Billson’s successor Kelly O’Dwyer, but given the fact she was also given the responsibility of Assistant Treasurer, understood that she has a lot on her plate.

However Mr Charity said the AAAA was also talking with the Federal Opposition, including Shadow Competition Minister Andrew Leigh, and had alternative actions in mind to move the repair data sharing debate forward.

In addition to the repair data sharing issue, this year has been quite a tug-of-war between the car companies and the aftermarket, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) making an example of Kia for the potentially misleading representation of its capped price servicing scheme, a move that prompted a number of other brands to revise their offerings.

Capped price servicing is designed to increase customer retention and boost main dealer service department profits, all the while reducing the likelihood that customers will venture into the workshops of independent repairers. It could be seen as anti-competitive behaviour.

A second attempt to undermine the aftermarket has been the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) ‘Genuine is Best’ campaign, which the AAAA has called out as using scare tactics to encourage consumers to opt for priced-inflated OEM-branded spares and other components.

ECU Diagnosis
ECU Diagnosis

The AAAA points out that 122 safety recalls were issued in 2014 for so-called genuine parts, while eight were associated with aftermarket parts. Genuine is Best also conveniently omits to mention that many ‘genuine’ parts are re-branded versions of those available on the aftermarket at lower cost.

“What the car industry failed to disclose is virtually all the car makers’ ‘genuine’ parts are not made in their own factories,” said Mr Charity.

“Most suppliers to the car industry sell those same products under different brands through at least two channels – the car manufacturers’ dealership networks and car parts retailers.”

ECU Diagnosis
ECU Diagnosis

Mr Charity also hit out at the FCAI’s snide attempt to tar the aftermarket with the same brush as illegal, noncompliant counterfeits that are not manufactured to OEM and Australian standards.

“Also of grave concern is the attempt to denigrate the word aftermarket when many of the car parts sold outside dealerships are produced by the same manufacturers that produce so-called genuine parts,” he said.

“Aftermarket and counterfeit products are not the same thing. The car companies should stop misleading the public with these stunts because this is not the way to build trust and respect with their customers.”