It’s nearly closing time at AutoNiche in Markham, Ontario, but technicians are still working on repairs for a small sedan owner.
Like many auto repair shops, there are tire changing machines, compressors and an alignment rack. A sign of the times, owner Emily Chung also added a charging station for plug-in vehicles.
Looking to that same future, Chung says she sees a need for something more: legislation that ensures businesses like her can do those repairs well down the road.
While most Canadians can fix their vehicle wherever they want these days, they worry that independent shops may be overtaken by new cars – wirelessly connected to manufacturers – capable of limiting access to data that technicians can access. Helps to diagnose a problem.
“If we don’t have access to the information, it makes it more difficult for us to be able to sort them out. [the customer’s] problem,” said Chung, who is concerned about the long-term viability of stores like his.
“It’s something that really needs to be addressed.”
Canadian politicians can expect to hear similar arguments in the coming months as discussions about a “right-to-repair” law are set to gather steam in Ottawa.
repair rights issues Not new, but have gained prominence in the products people buy – from smartphones to dishwashers to farm equipment – as they become more sophisticated and integrated with computers.
This is something that lawmakers around the world are grappling with as they weigh consumers’ expectations and the impact of manufacturers on their costs as well as people’s warnings. the protection and privacy.
push for the law
With lawmakers expected to return to the House of Commons this fall, advocates for the automotive aftermarket are ready to push again on laws they say are important to consumers and independent repair shops.
This could set up a debate over whether the 12-year-old agreement with Canadian automakers – a commitment to voluntarily sharing service and repair information with the latter’s industry – is still a new era of connected smart vehicles. works in.
When the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard, or CASIS, was announced in 2009, it was responding to independent garage owners who were concerned that they sometimes had to send clients to dealers because they didn’t have vehicles to fix. It lacks the necessary information, such as computer code for small sensors or training to repair something.
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Under CASIS, the manufacturers who have signed have agreed to share service and repair information with the aftermarket sector on an equal footing with the authorized dealers.
“It opened up access to tools, training and service information from manufacturers to the aftermarket industry, and it was great with that,” said Matt Carpenter, an automotive instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.
Carpenter said that manufacturers charged a “reasonable amount” for access to this information, however, prompting many aftermarket shops to focus on two or three brands rather than having a blanket capacity to repair all vehicles. did.
Big Changes of a Decade
however, when CASIS was introduced, it received widespread support from groups representing the country’s manufacturers as well as the aftermarket sector. Groups representing Canadian manufacturers believe it continues to work well.
But some big changes have been seen in the last decade.
Connected vehicles have become more like a rolling computerUsing telematics technology – which enables direct sharing of data with manufacturers and helps improve things like performance and security.
According to advocates for repair rights, these advances mean some of the information that independent repair shops have traditionally relied on to find in vehicles can now be hosted remotely on manufacturers’ servers.
Jean-François Champagne, president of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, said, “Until long ago, in fact, the repairman had direct access to the vehicle and all onboard information, which represents the companies that manufacture, distribute, and and installs Automotive replacement parts, accessories, tools and equipment.
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“Nowadays, this information is no longer in the vehicle but is hosted in the manufacturer’s servers, and this information is vital for an aftermarket shop to be able to fix a car.”
Champagne points to luxury automakers as the hardest to reach, but he is concerned about the problem creeping into other brands as well if left unchecked.
“We will continue to be very proactive before the government,” Champagne said.
The election call ended the proposed law
In Ottawa, a pair of bills worked their way through parliament after the reparation rights movement, but met a dead end with federal election calls.
Bill C-11, Digital Charter Implementation Act, proposed giving Canadians more control over their online data and imposed heavy penalties for companies that breach privacy.
separately, a private member’s bill Which aims to make a limited allowance for consumers to bypass the digital lock without violating the Copyright Act – but only for diagnostics, maintenance or repair.
Time will tell what will be revived in the next session of Parliament.
earlier this year, Australia passed law Which says that automakers must supply the information to certified repair shops.
Massachusetts citizen last voted For a law that requires automakers to install a standardized platform on cars with telematic technology, giving independent garages access to wireless mechanical data is the key to making some repairs.
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The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents the majority of US automakers, suing the state And arguing that the new law incurs costs for manufacturers and jeopardizes the privacy of car owners by disclosing data on their vehicles.
Industry in Canada also sees issues with Massachusetts law.
“When you see those kinds of [legislation] For those who are trying to open up, for example, privacy issues, it should be considered in the context of the current security that Canadians have – not only for security reasons, but also for environmental and privacy reasons,” said Brian Kingston. Said, President and CEO of the Canadian Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Still a ‘good model’
Kingston said CASIS is cooperative and voluntary, and it gives consumers the ability to choose where they want their vehicle repaired.
“We really think it’s a good model and something that other industries can look to as they consider things like right-to-repair legislation,” said Kingston, whose group includes Ford, General Motors and Stelantis. represents.
Dealerships are definitely looking.
Lawrence Romanowski, who has managed luxury car dealerships for years, said about 30 percent of the revenue at dealerships comes from the service department.
“To obtain a dealer franchise, the manufacturer entails spending anywhere from $10 million or $20 million to the dealer for this facility,” he said.
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“When the manufacturer has data on all the cars in the region – and the millions of kilometers that are put on them – regular updates and improvements take place at the dealer level.
“It wouldn’t be practical, I don’t think it’s up to the manufacturer to make it open to everyone.”
David Adams, president and CEO of Global Automakers of Canada, which represents the likes of Honda and Toyota, said CASIS may need updating, but believes it works well. Is.
“Ten years is a long time, so there has been a lot of development in the vehicle since then,” he said.
“Let’s start and have a chat and figure out again whether CASIS is a tool that can be expanded, I think, to cover telematics, so we have to go through legislative or regulatory initiatives. There is no need to deal with it.”
Back in his garage in Markham, Chung said the reality is that there is nothing to compel the producers to release any such information. It’s not a situation that affects her daily right now, but she believes it’s time to act on the law.
Chung said, “What we’re trying to do is make sure the law is changed so that when we get to that point…