AM Online

Autotrade: Repairers stumped by increasing technology

At a glance

  • No set procedure for information
  • Euro 5 a legal requirement
  • Security systems are sticking point
  • Investment needed in training

    Freedom of choice was core to the 2002 Block Exemption Regulation.

    It gives customers the right to have their car repaired where they want, without affecting the warranty and allows independent repairers to take a slice of the service market for new cars.

    But the regulation is not without fault.

    Though it set guidelines for manufacturers to make diagnostic information available to the independent aftermarket, there is no set procedure to do so, and it can vary between manufacturers.

    As such, it can still be problematic for some repairers to get hold of information needed to interact with modern vehicles via scantools.

    This is a growing problem, as new cars become increasingly technology rich.

    Even basic operations such as releasing brake callipers involve the car’s on board computers.

    Furthermore, with the 2010 review looming, some fear that independent workshops’ right to repair new cars may be at risk if Block Exemption is not renewed.

    Peter Coombes, spokesman for the Right to Repair Campaign says: “It is increasingly difficult for equipment manufacturers to provide an alternative to the original equipment (OE), especially when most of them provide multi-brand equipment.

    “Without access to some of the specified data and information, we are already seeing the problem of equipment manufacturers not being able to provide the required functionality at a pace demanded by the independent sector.

    "What we cannot forget is that the independent sector doesn’t only maintain old vehicles.”

    But there is hope.

    Although primarily aimed at controlling emissions, the Euro 5 Regulation 715/2007, which comes into force in January 2009, is vital for the independent aftermarket.

    In order to perform firmware upgrades to meet the new emissions targets, independent repairers must be able to access the car using non-OE tools.

    As a result, manufacturers will be forced to make repair and diagnostic information available to equipment suppliers for all vehicles Type Approved after September 1, 2009.

    Unlike Block Exemption, which is temporary, the regulation will place a permanent legal requirement for vehicle manufacturers to provide diagnostic information in a common format, and brings Europe in line with America where a similar system has been in place for several years.

    Brian Spratt, of the Automotive Distribution Federation, says: “It gives workshops the opportunity to equip themselves to offer consumers a full job at a competitive price, and maintain the choice of where they want their vehicle serviced.

    "But it will be costly, and independents may need to cover a wide range of marques, adding to the expense.”

  • This is a sample of a feature in the April 4 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.
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