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Carmakers say they can’t obey the state’s right-to-repair law

An auto mechanic completed an oil change on a customer's vehicle at Gates Automotive Service.Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The automotive right-to-repair law that won overwhelming approval from Massachusetts voters in a referendum nearly two years ago is still propped up on jacks in Boston federal court. And based on documents submitted to the court last week by two major automakers, it’ll be there for quite a while.

Cybersecurity executives for General Motors and Stellantis, the company that owns carmaker Chrysler, told the court that they’ve done nothing to prepare for complying with the law, because they can’t. Kevin Tierney, vice president of global cybersecurity for GM, said that “it remains my considered judgment that it is simply impossible to comply with the Data Access Law safely.”


The right-to-repair law requires that automakers who sell their cars in Massachusetts provide consumers and independent repair shops with wireless access to the car’s “telematics” — the digital data governing every aspect of how the vehicle works. This way, independent mechanics can repair these vehicles as readily as authorized dealers.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey contends that the carmakers are deliberately misreading the law to falsely argue that it contradicts federal auto safety regulations and to claim that obeying the law is technically impractical. “None of that is true,” said a filing from Healey’s office.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the international car manufacturers association, filed suit to halt enforcement of the law almost as soon as it passed in late 2020. The auto companies contend that only the federal government, not the states, may pass such a law. They also argue that the law makes it much harder to secure digital automotive data against malicious hackers. And they note that the law originally took effect with the 2022 model year, giving car companies far too little time to comply.

In September, US District Judge Douglas Woodlock ordered the carmakers alliance to reveal what steps they’ve taken to comply with the law, in case he decides to uphold it. Speaking for the alliance, the GM and Stellantis executives said that until they receive further guidance from the court, they can’t even begin to comply.


For instance, they noted that the law requires the establishment of an independent company that would provide car mechanics with access to telematic data from all carmakers. The companies said no one has created such an entity and claimed it would be illegal for the manufacturers to do so themselves, because it would not be independent.

“We’re close to the two-year anniversary, it’s sort of a sad anniversary, and the car companies have admittedly done nothing to comply with the will of the voters,” said Justin Rzepka, executive director of the CAR Coalition, a Washington-based group that represents independent car repair shops.

Rzepka called for the court to uphold the Massachusetts law and for the passage of similar legislation at the federal level.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him @GlobeTechLab.