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Automakers fight updated Massachusetts 'right-to-repair' law

This recently expanded regulation is designed to help consumers but manufactures likely can't comply with it.

Cars... they keep getting more and more complicated.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Massachusetts "right-to-repair" law of 2012 was designed to make it easier for owners and independent garages to fix and maintain modern vehicles, which keep getting more and more complicated. The initiative was designed to force automakers to give those garages the same access to diagnostic and repair information they give to dealerships and authorized repair facilities.

Taking this a step further, on election day last month, voters in The Bay State approved a measure to alter this law, requiring car companies selling vehicles in Massachusetts equipped with telematics systems "that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server" to use a standardized data platform. This would prevent automakers from blocking access to important diagnostic information, in turn forcing vehicle owners to go to a dealership or authorized repair facility for work.

This seems like a reasonable thing, but there is a major issue: timing. Manufacturers are required to comply starting with the 2022 model year. In automotive terms, where vehicle development cycles can take anywhere from three to five years, that's about 2 seconds from now, a timeframe that's almost entirely unfeasible.

Ford 6.8-Liter V8 Engine

Massachusetts' updated "right-to-repair" law is good for consumers but problematic for automakers. 

Ford

Car companies aren't happy about this. On Nov. 20, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry advocacy group that represents a huge number of manufacturers and supplier companies, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, claiming the updated "right to repair" law is unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation is gunning for the court to basically scrap this updated law, which is slated to go into effect on Dec. 3.

Legal theatrics aside, automakers do have a solid argument. Making vehicles more repairable for consumers is certainly a good thing, but there are major cybersecurity and safety risks associated with this regulation. Additionally, it's nearly impossible for car companies to comply with it, at least not before 2022 model-year vehicles go on sale, some of which will likely be available early next year.

Some dealerships in Massachusetts are working with the state to try to delay the implementation of this revised law. A potential alteration could push things back until the 2025 model year or beyond.

We still don't know whether the updated law will get tossed out or amended, or if automakers will be forced to comply. But whatever does go down will likely affect the car business on a national level. This developing story is worth keeping an eye on.

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