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Independents demand the right to repair cars

Representatives of the independent aftermarket sector are preparing a lobbying offensive to preserve the trading rights of non-franchised repairers.

The Right To Repair Campaign (R2RC) plans to bring together all sectors of the aftermarket to secure statutory protection from the European Union for independents seeking technical information from vehicle manufacturers. It has backing from UK trade associations under the Automotive Aftermarket Liaison Group and is being coordinated by FIGIEFA, the international federation of automotive aftermarket distributors.

FIGIEFA treasurer Bob Davis said it had a war chest of €2m to use in raising awareness among MEPs, civil servants and the public. “The loser will be the consumer because if there’s no competition between the franchised and independent aftermarket sectors they will lose choice.”

Davis, also head of the aftermarket services division of the SMMT, said campaigning is already under way, as R2RC wants to be a loud voice in the 2010 block exemption revision.

Campaigners argue that the proliferation this decade of digital data transfer systems in modern cars, such as CANbus, DATAbus and MOSTbus, will make it even more important in future for independents to have the same access to carmakers’ technical information as their franchised networks.

Independent garages, tyre fitters and bodyshops could face being excluded from completing simple repairs unless they can reset fault codes and re-programme ECUs, said Dave Garrett, director of the Garage Equipment Association.

Replacing a battery, diesel injector or installing a towbar on some executive cars already necessitates informing the vehicle’s electronic management system, warned Garrett. And electronic handbrake systems mean repairers can no longer wind back calipers to replace brake pads, but must use a diagnostic machine to release them.

Garrett said the threat was a significant concern to equipment and component suppliers, who find the aftermarket sector more profitable than their OE-supply divisions.

Mike Owen, head of aftermarket at the RMIF, said the technology had been in cars for several years so independents could reach crisis point soon.

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