I’ve been servicing cars in Beverly for more than 30 years. I grew up here, and so I’ve known many of my customers for decades. Because of the relationships I have with them, now their kids come to me too. I’m the guy they trust to repair their vehicles right and for the right price.
I’ve built a good business, and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful.
That’s why I’m urging a yes vote on “Right to Repair,” Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot. Car manufacturers have started to restrict access to the codes and other diagnostic information that I need in order to fix my customers’ cars, by moving that information to new wireless platforms included in today’s more computerized cars. If Question 1 doesn’t pass, there’s a good chance that in a few years I won’t be able to fix vehicles, and Massachusetts residents will be steered toward dealers for more expensive repairs.
Since the original Right to Repair ballot initiative passed in 2012, there has been a revolution in car technology: touch screens and fender sensors, rear and front cameras, parking assist, and the like. Unfortunately, that law had a loophole that allowed automakers to restrict access to certain mechanical data, now that some of it is transmitted over wireless connections to automakers’ servers. Increasingly, I can’t get the diagnostic information I need to fix cars.
As of 2020, 90 percent of new cars are equipped to transmit this data wirelessly — there are virtually no “simple” or “basic” cars anymore. No one predicted this back in 2012.
The negative ads by opponents to Question 1, the big automakers, use scare tactics about safety concerns and who has access to personal data — without acknowledging that vehicle owners themselves don’t have access to their own data. It’s almost the same campaign used by opponents of the first Right to Repair, a law that has been working admirably for nearly eight years.
The truth is that the automakers want to steer repair business to their dealers, plain and simple. The move toward wireless transmission of mechanical information makes it easier for them to do it. Dealers don’t make as much on car sales as they used to, so they need to make it up with expensive repairs.
Automakers certainly have a profit interest in keeping all the repairs at their dealerships, but this is not in the consumer’s interest, as dealers charge consumers substantially more than independent car mechanics for repairs.
Question 1 preserves the same car repair rights that you have now as a consumer in the face of this new wireless technology in cars. That current law requires manufacturers to provide a wired port that we can plug into and get codes that correspond with your car’s systems and tell us what is wrong with the car. All Question 1 would do is allow us access to the very same information, but through an app connection that the car owner controls and that gives him or her a choice about who can access it.
The language of Question 1 is clear: Repair shops could access only “wirelessly transmitted mechanical data related to their vehicles’ maintenance and repair.” And even then, it is only with the car owner’s permission — kind of like today, when you drive in and invite me to plug in and diagnose your car, but updated for new technology.
My small business and more than 1,500 small repair shops across the state have banded together to urge a yes vote on Question 1. We need it to stay in business, keep our technicians employed, and continue repairing ever-more complicated cars and trucks. Consumers need it to preserve their choice in car repair and the ability to shop around for repairs and a better price.
Please help us keep the repair market fair for both independent repair shops and consumers by voting yes on 1.
Ron Jedraszek owns Park Street Auto Repair in Beverly.