Right to Repair: What’s the future of the automotive aftermarket?

Click to play video:

Right to Repair: Inside the Movement to Fight for All Consumers

Wally Dingman hates having to turn down customers. That’s what kept him in the auto repair business for his 40 years.

Like the 371,000 Canadians who work in the aftermarket industry, Mr. Dinman is more than qualified to fix cars. But in the modern age of repair, knowing how is not enough.

“It’s getting harder and harder to do repairs,” Dingman said. “Our scan his tools and repair software have limited access to information as the manufacturer does not disclose the information.”

Dingman owns Corhill Automotive in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. His shop is one of his ten aftermarket repair shops serving a town of just under 10,000 people.

As vehicles become more digital, they also need the tools they need to diagnose and repair vehicles. Older vehicle models provide information directly to the technician as long as they have the tools to access the on-board diagnostic port, while newer models only share certain information with the dealer.

problem? Dealers do not share that information with aftermarket. This threatens the $15.7 billion aftermarket industry that has been the foundation of Canadian society for decades.

This is where the repair rights movement comes into play.

This drives aftermarkets to have full access to the information and technology they need to service their vehicles.

Dealers say they limit access primarily based on copyright and security concerns. In Canada, circumvention of “technical safeguards” (TPM) is not legally permitted.

The TPM is also known as a “digital lock” that keeps diagnostic information hidden.

“They are at a disadvantage because the market is competitive to begin with and they don’t have access to enough information to make repairs,” Dingman said.

But Anthony Rosborough believes the copyright debate is being abused by automakers.

He is a Canadian Intellectual Property (IP) Attorney currently at the European University Institute.

“The reason we have legislation like this is to encourage artistic and innovative production,” Rosborough said. “So if you’re using such a system and claiming, ‘We have the absolute right to lock down any device you own for cybersecurity,’ it’s How does it fit in with copyright?”

This poses a challenge for local repair shops, as information gaps are a stumbling block for technicians like Emily Zhang. She owns her autoNiche in Markham, Ontario.

Emily Chung owns autoNiche in Markham, Ontario. She also teaches aspiring automotive engineers, but worries about her future. “There’s nothing that motivates the next generation to say, ‘Let’s build this trade together,'” she said.

Courtesy: Emily Chan

Her most recent pain was when trying to program the immobilizer code for her Honda Odyssey’s anti-theft system. Honda’s website allows aftermarkets to purchase access to immobilizer codes, but only for US vehicles.

“If you have an American car, you can get the code,” Chong said. “I don’t understand why it works for American cars but not for Canadian cars.”

A technician will need to send the customer to the dealership to install the immobilizer code on Hondas made in Canada. However, cars of the same model made in the USA can be repaired by aftermarket technicians.

“This is the challenge we face as engineers,” says Chung. “If you were on the receiving end of the news as a Honda customer, you wouldn’t think this was okay.”

Global News contacted Honda for this reason, but did not receive a statement.

Alana Baker, senior director of government relations at the Auto Industry Association, a trade group representing Canada’s aftermarket industry, said monopoly control over repair aspects would have a negative impact on Canadians.

“Today’s consumers face record high cost of living on everything from gasoline to food and everything in between,” Baker said.

“This is really about consumer protection, consumer choice and accessibility, and ensuring consumers continue to have access to affordable, reliable and essential vehicle service and repair.”

Independent auto repair technicians are concerned about consumer costs and the future of business if more dealers don’t share repair information with the aftermarket.

It may be difficult for the aftermarket, but there are systems in place to protect their interests. The Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS) agreement was a voluntary agreement between the aftermarket industry and Canadian automakers.

The agreement, signed in 2009, promised manufacturers to provide information to the automotive sector. However, due to the voluntary nature of CASIS, manufacturers are not obliged to participate.

Bryan Kingston, president and CEO of the Canadian Automobile Manufacturers Association (CVMA), says CASIS is working as intended. In 2009 he was one of three countries to sign CASIS.

“This agreement has been held very well because of our ongoing engagement with the aftermarket,” said Kingston. “General Motors and Stellantis are leaders in providing vehicle repair information.”

As a result, brands such as Tesla have opted out of sharing information with the aftermarket, setting an alarming precedent for electric vehicles (EVs). With the federal government mandating all new cars to be zero-emission by 2035, Canadians will see even more EVs on the streets.

“We can’t talk about what specific manufacturers are doing, but what we want is for other OEMs to sign the CASIS agreement and become signatories,” Kingston said.

CASIS came into force when we were able to predict the future impact of TPM and EV. But what worked in 2009 has not been updated for today.

“CASIS was not built for the wireless world we live in today,” said Baker. “We need to keep it up to date in order to keep up with the rapid advances in technology.”

“CASIS goes beyond what Canadian intellectual property law allows. It treats as proprietary something that no Canadian intellectual property right currently recognizes,” Rosborough said. “Not all parts, tools and information are patentable or copyrightable, but CASIS treats them as the property of the manufacturer.”

Click to play video:

Federal Budget Responds to ‘Right to Repair’ Provisions

Given the current limitations on repairs, becoming an automotive technician has never been more difficult. And given the challenges of attracting people to the field, it’s a problem.

There is a shortage of skilled workers in every sector in Canada. According to Statistics Canada data, the ratio of new hires to vacancies in the first quarter of 2022 was 33.6%.

“If we are already struggling to secure skilled workers today, we will further segment it,” Chong said.

In addition to owning his own store, Mr. Chong teaches trade at Georgian University. Her concern is the next generation of technologists.

“There is nothing to motivate the next generation to say, ‘Let’s build this trade together,'” Chong said.

“I’m still young enough that if there’s more hope in the industry, I’ll probably scale it up a bit and hire a second or third mechanic if I can find one,” Dingman said. “But the reality is that you have to deal with what you’ve been given. What I’m most comfortable with at the moment is scaling back.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button