The automotive aftermarket is critical to the safe mobility of Canada’s population. A sound right to repair strategy must include engaging elected officials.
There is a technological revolution going on and it will critical to have an automotive aftermarket that can handle these vehicles. Automotive aftermarket businesses need to ensure elected officials understand.
There is a very good reason you didn’t read about the Ontario Government’s recent “automotive strategy” in the news section.
It’s not that I was too busy shoveling two feet of snow of my roof. And it’s not that I decided to go skate on the lake instead.
It’s this: it has nothing for the aftermarket in it.
With it’s gaze firmly fixed on whatever is ten feet in front of it, Ontario’s government has released a 20-page document outlining its intention to invest in the automotive sector.
In and of itself, this is a good thing as regardless of how you as an individual might feel about the corporate world getting incentives from governments, it is how the game is played: Ontario, and Canada, must compete with states, and countries, for corporate investment that brings jobs, good paying ones. One need only look at how jurisdictions were falling all over themselves to win the Amazon HQ2 bidding to see how frenzied the competition can get.
The focus of Ontario’s announcement is:
“strengthen and build on Ontario’s North American Leadership in automotive assembly and parts production. Position Ontario to be a leader in the development, commercialization and adoption of advanced manufacturing and mobility technologies.”
As with most of these government announcements, it’s long on vision, short on details, and contains a bunch of unrelated stuff that is being recast as supporting the vision.
But I’m not here to talk about that. It’s what’s not in the announcement that has me concerned.
The full document is posted here, so you can go ahead and read it. I have. More than once. And no matter how hard I squint, I don’t see any recognition of the industry that car owners rely on to help keep their cars on the road well into their useful lives.
And it’s not that I’m looking for handouts for the aftermarket, it’s this: in this headlong rush to secure new mobility technology centre investments, jobs, and to make further investments in high tech educational programs, that this government and others will fail to protect the rights of car owners to get their cars fixed where they choose.
Amid the technology revolution that we’re seeing right now are shifts in the way that diagnostic and repair data is being accessed and, intentional or not, this is starting to look like a way for the automakers to unfairly restrict access to repair data and reflash downloads.
Now that’s probably too much into the weeds for any provincial government to get in terms of the actual details, particularly in terms of broader strategies like Ontario’s announcement.
But I do think there is a danger, here and across the border in the U.S., that government officials, having fought so hard to win investments in manufacturing and jobs, will feel beholden to those large interests and make moves that will restrict access for the aftermarket.
In short, the fight for right to repair is far from over and is entering a whole new critical phase.
I do know that associations across North America are making these concerns known but you really can’t just leave it up to them.
I am usually reluctant to tell anyone what they should do, but I’m going to make an exception here.
Last November, in Las Vegas, at the AAPEX town hall breakfast, I was struck by how few in the room declared that they had been in contact with their local representatives. It was actually kind of shameful.
So, here’s what you should do, what you need to do look up the name and phone number of your provincial and federal member of parliament. It’s simple: google “local MP” and “local MPP” and you will get those numbers.
Then dial those phone numbers.
Explain to them your concerns about access to information and tools. Explain to them what the threat is to the consumer and to local business. The car dealer network has its place to be sure, but there’s no possible way that the shrinking car dealer networks can handle all the work out there.
Putting a car on a flatbed and hauling hundreds of kilometers to the closest dealer is not, I think, a reasonable solution for most consumers.
Remind your elected officials, and those candidates who would like to replace them, that the majority of voters rely on local aftermarket repair businesses to keep them on the road and driving safely.
Let them know that aftermarket technicians are competent, skilled, and that this industry is a provider of hundreds of thousands of jobs across Canada.
And invite them to your business to see what you do.
I know it seems like asking a lot to make those phone calls, and the ones you’re going to have to make to keep the issue top of mind.
And you should also work through any association or group that lends a hand to the cause.
To me, what’s it’s about is securing the ability of the consumer to have a competitively priced and competent local option for automotive service now and into the future.
The aftermarket is perfectly capable of providing that, but it’s up to all of us to make sure that government regulations and side deals don’t stand in the way.