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Fair And Reasonable Terms

Every bill or manifesto concerning automotive right to repair contain the words “fair and reasonable terms.” Those simple terms, “fair” and “reasonable,” can have different meanings depending on whether you are a shop, a driver or an automaker.

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For shops and technicians, “fair and reasonable terms” could mean access to the information and tools to fix a vehicle. Cost is another factor that is just as important as access. If a shop or technician can’t afford the tool and subscriptions to fix a vehicle, this is a problem for all parties. 

For some shops, $25 is expensive; other shops will not wince at charging $2,000 for an annual subscription to a credit card.

For the consumer, “fair and reasonable terms” means that they can get their vehicle repaired quickly, at a price they can afford and at a facility they choose. These are basic consumer expectations for any expensive high tech product. 

For automakers, fair and reasonable terms have to be seen in a different context. Like it or not, OEMs are held accountable by their stock shareholders. The management has to be able to show a profit so the stock can pay a dividend or increase in price. They are responsible to their customers to provide a safe vehicle. They also have to abide by state and federal regulations. They also must protect their marketshare.

New car dealers purchase franchises from the automakers, so their perspective on fair and reasonable terms is different. Your local dealership can be both competition and collaborator. Much of the profit for a dealership comes from the parts department. 

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If it was possible to sit down with all the parties on the Right to Repair issue, fair and reasonable terms would require understanding each other’s needs. But the bottom line is we are all in the business of making sure people have affordable mobility and operation profitable businesses. 

We are all facing the same problem. Vehicle complexity is increasing at an dramatic rate. Automakers have to meet emissions and safety standards that become more stringent every year. Consumers expect more from their vehicles with regard to performance, safety and convenience. This has made servicing cars and trucks more complicated and information-intensive. Can we put a freeze on progress? Probably not. What all parties can agree on is that vehicles need to be properly repaired for the economy and public safety. 

This means that shops need information and access to tools from the OEMs. Shops are more than willing to pay for it. The shops who expect it for free should not be in business. Consumers also need to recognize that service shouldn’t be free. Their vehicle is not a cell phone or appliance. It can be repaired, and shops are in the business to help, but it will require diagnostic labor, information charges and maybe fees to reprogram a module. If we all get on the same page, those costs should be fair and reasonable.

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