With early voting already underway in municipalities across the state, the Express is investigating the statewide ballot question, Question 1, the “Right to Repair Law” Vehicle Data Access Requirement Initiative (2020).
In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state to pass the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act with 86 percent voter support. The legislation required automobile manufacturers to provide independent auto repair shops the same access as dealerships to necessary diagnostic and repair information about a vehicle. The law as it currently stands, however, excludes telematics or “systems that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server.” The proposed law would affect motor vehicles sold in Massachusetts beginning with model year 2022. Those vehicles which utilize telematics systems would be required to be equipped with a standardized open access data platform. According to the ballot measure, this increased accessibility would be available via a mobile based application.
A “no” vote opposes requiring vehicles with model year 2022 and later to be equipped with a standardized open data platform that would allow vehicle owners and independent repair shops to access data and run diagnostics through a mobile app. A “yes” vote supports the standardized open data platform necessary to access information needed for repair through a mobile app.
The Express spoke with several local, independently owned automotive repair shops. Owner and manager of Dave’s Automotive on the Hanson/Halifax line, Eric Hatch, was concise in his support of the ballot measure saying, “We’re voting yes. All we need to do is vote yes.”
Jack Ferry, owner of Ferry’s Automotive in Hanson, said, “We’re for yes on the question, I know there are pros and cons on both sides, but from our point of view we need it just to keep up with technology down the road.” Ferry said that for the most part, they currently have what’s needed to deal with cars coming in for repairs. He noted however, that once later model years equipped with telematics begin to come into independent repair shops, they won’t have the platform needed for diagnostics without this legislation passing. Ferry compared telematics to Onstar in its ability to access and monitor the vehicle. “Technology has come a long way,” Ferry said. “We just want to be able to keep up with it.”
Hennessey Automotive who has been operating out of Kingston for nearly thirty years, is a family owned business. Owner Ed Hennessey said that he found the proposal to be a bit convoluted in the way it is written but noted that ultimately a no vote was to the advantage of the dealerships. Hennessey, who said he would be voting yes, said, “If it’s good for them, it’s bad for us, that’s the way I look at it.”
The Express also spoke with Frank Perry, the manager of Perry’s Automotive on Monponsett St. in Halifax. Perry said that he hopes that people will vote for the measure in order to ensure that independent shops are able to access the information necessary to perform repairs. Perry was quick to point out that since the initiative begins with model year 2022, it will likely be a few years before the benefits of a yes vote are felt. “In the long run it’s going to help us,” Perry said. He continued, “… In another five or six years when the warranty expires, people are going to need to come to places like me or want to come to places like me and unless the dealers are mandated to sell it, I’ll have a hard time.”
Perry also pointed out the potential future benefit of the measure as automotive technology continues to develop. “When the self-driving cars and all the other fun stuff that they start coming out with are going to really be all part and parcel and basically be in that law already. They have to sell it rather than saying it’s their stuff and it’s proprietary.”
What is the argument against Question 1? Leading the opposition campaign is the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data. As quoted from the website Ballotpedia.org, Conor Yunits, a spokesperson for the Coalition said, “This ballot question will create easy opportunities for strangers, hackers, and criminals to access consumer vehicles and personal driving data – including real-time location. It will put people at risk, without doing anything to improve the consumer experience.” Top donors to the no campaign include General Motors, Toyota Motor North America, Ford Motor Company, American Honda Motor Co., and Nissan North America.