One aspect of the right to repair argument has been that it is patently unfair to require consumers to travel long distances just for basic vehicle service.
Now, I admit that I have been guilty of thinking that having to drive long distances for service was purely the lot of Canadians driving and living in small towns, far from major centres, or of those bought an exotic sports car or low-volume specialty vehicle.
I know these are inaccurate scenarios, but if I’m thinking of things in those terms, I am sure a lot of people are. (And some of them will be elected officials.)
Well, fast forward to the last few weeks here in Northeastern Ontario.
As many of you may know, Indie Garage publisher CHAT Integrated Media is based in Sudbury, Ontario, a small urban centre of 160,000-plus people, which is served by virtually every major dealer network.
But that list of brands available in Sudbury or frankly, Northeastern Ontario at all, will soon not include BMW. A recent notice advised that after a short three-and-a-half-year run, the local BMW dealership will be closing. That same notice also indicated that “for your convenience” arrangements had been made for BMW owners to get their service needs taken care of in Barrie, Ont., which is about a three-hour drive from Sudbury.
I ask you now to just put yourself in the shoes of an owner of a new or nearly new BMW under full warranty purchased in good faith, and finding yourself feeling utterly stranded. Perhaps not so “convenient.”
Professionals in the automotive aftermarket know that those owners could still get warranty-validated service at any number of automotive service providers outside of the BMW dealer network. But there remains a persistent proportion of the car owning public – the latest research I’ve seen from the Automotive Industries Association of Canada pegs this at 36% – does not believe it.
In fact, the advisory to the BMW owners helps to reinforce this misconception. It does not say, “Hey, here’s some great local service facilities.”
It does not tell them they don’t have to drive for hours to get an oil change.
It does not say that there are some local independent BMW-certified and -trained technicians. It says, “Go to Barrie.”
At a bare minimum, driving three hours to get service you could have done in your community is incredibly wasteful. Multiply that by the hundreds of trips from car owners and it’s downright appalling from an environmental impact alone. I would hazard a guess that more than a few BMW owners are “shop local” advocates. How is this any different?
We know that when the independent automotive service community is provided access to tools, training and repair information, it can fulfill the needs of the driving public and any reasonable warranty requirement.
As we move, hopefully, towards a successful campaign for right to repair legislation in Canada, let’s not forget that it’s not about the industry. It’s about the consumer.
With the shifting automotive landscape – that BMW dealership is not the first new car dealer to close in Canada, and it will certainly not be the last – it is imperative that the car driving public can be taken care of by the independent automotive service provider community, and that they know that they can be taken care of by the independent automotive service provider community.
So get the word out, continue to sign the petitions, and together we can all build the confidence of Canada’s driving public that they’re going to be taken care of, no matter where they live.