Your Car, Your Data, Your Choice

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Jean-François Champagne PHOTO AIA Canada

AIA Canada has launched a campaign to ensure consumers can retain the right to vehicle data access and select the service and repair centre of their choice.

A key issue for the automotive aftermarket in recent years has been growing concerns regarding access to service and repair data for vehicles. Now, AIA Canada, in partnership with the Auto Care Association and Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) in the U.S., has launched Your Car, Your Data, Your Choice.

This is a campaign designed to spread awareness about the importance of consumers being able to control access to the data coming from their vehicle and be able to select a service repair centre of their own choice.

Autosphere recently chatted with AIA Canada President Jean-François Champagne about the Your Car, Your Data Campaign and the importance of creating a level playing field for repair and service information access to ensure the future of the automotive aftermarket.

OEMs and restricted data access

Autosphere: From your perspective, how are the OEMs trying to justify their position in restriction data access and RMI?

Jean-François Champagne: In answering that question a key thing is that the vehicle OEMs are trying to position themselves as the gatekeeper of the information in the vehicle and it is no different from what big tech companies are also doing and that is essential, trying to control and monetize data.

From their perspective, the approach has been to keep it quiet on the type of data they generate and saying to consumers that ‘don’t worry, your information is safe with us.’ That essentially has been their strategy and approach to this.

Consumer reactions to data access

Based on your latest findings how are consumers reacting to the situation?

JFC: From our latest survey there are a few things to look at. So, when you ask consumers who they think should own and control the data on their car, 88 percent, or about 9 out of 10 Canadians will tell you they should own and control the data on the vehicle.

That said when you ask them who they think actually owns the data they are confused. Most do not really understand, while a third of Canadians will tell you they believe they already own the data and about a quarter of them do not know exactly who owns the data in their vehicle.

So, the challenge obviously is to create this awareness and while that might seem daunting, consumers will say they want to be in control of their data and more specifically so do we as well.

Right to Repair bill in Massachusetts

Can you tell us a little about the current status of the bill in Massachusetts regarding the right to repair and the potential impact of the decision for the automotive aftermarket in both Canada and the U.S.?

JFC: Regarding the Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts, they did vote ‘yes’ to giving the consumers the right to data access and selecting their repairer of choice.

Starting with the model year 2022, which is just around the corner, consumers should be able to access their vehicle data directly using a standardized approach, using their cell phone, including the wireless data, and telematics from their vehicle as it relates to the maintenance, servicing and calibrations. They then have the ability to share all of that information with their preferred service repair shop.

And that is independent of the OEMs and having the ability to do this directly. The passing of this legislation has been a great success and something obviously, we want to make sure is going to be part of the legislative and regulatory landscape in Canada as well.

We also need to keep in mind that in Canada, what we have today is voluntary with the CASIS agreement where in the U.S. they have Right to Repair, which of course was what we saw in the state of Massachusetts.

As increasingly, Canadians and Americans drive the same vehicles and perform servicing the same way, plus as we move toward more connected and autonomous vehicles, we must maintain a harmonized, regulatory framework so that people can cross the border without issue and get their cars serviced whether they are Canadians vacationing in Florida or Americans visiting us up here in Canada.

Current data access issues for aftermarket service providers 

What are the current issues aftermarket service providers are actually facing when it comes to data access and repair information in their shops daily and how it could play out in the future depending on which way things go?

JFC: Well, frankly, what is already happening, is that repair shops in Canada are finding it increasingly difficult to access the information needed to safely repair vehicles.

Yes, there are changes to technology and tools but we also want to make sure that if you are a trained technician, you have a valid licence and you are working for an independent repair shop, you should not have to revert to sending the vehicle to the OEM franchise dealership to get it reprogrammed.

The reality is that this is frequently the situation and (in some cases) OEMs are making it even more difficult for some of the independent repair shops to have access to information and the ability to repair those vehicles.

And, if nothing changes regarding telematics and the right to repair, vehicle manufacturers, are going to essentially control the whole repair process which will limit consumer choice, create inconvenience for consumers and will result in an increase in the cost of repairs.

Amendments to make in current agreements

Can you tell us a little about where the current agreements in both Canada and the U.S. actually fall short in terms of ensuring equal and fair access to data and RMI and where clear amendments need to be made?

JFC: Essentially, if you think about the last right to repair battle, which led to the voluntary CASIS agreement in Canada and the right to repair legislation in the U.S. such as that in Massachusetts, I think we, in the aftermarket, have been focused on the traditional way of servicing vehicles.

Since the 1990s, we have increasingly relied on OBD II diagnostics ports to connect to the vehicle to perform diagnostics and reprogramming. And this was really the focus of our efforts when these original agreements were created. And really it wasn’t all that long ago when we were focused on that.

Technology changes so fast and I think what we perhaps failed to understand at the time was the importance and growth of vehicle telematics which is where the gaps in the current agreements really are. With OBD II ports being phased out and more of the data being transmitted wirelessly, you are going to see the vehicle OEMs use this scenario as an opportunity to control the repair process and prevent the aftermarket from accessing the repair data.

So, I think that the misunderstanding or lack of awareness regarding the rise of telematics back in 2008-09 was really the genesis of the challenges we are currently facing today.

Dialogue between OEMs and aftermarket

Has there been any dialogue between the alliance representing the OEMs and the aftermarket to recognize the importance of the role that both play within the broader automotive ecosystem?

JFC: I was fortunate to be a member of the telematics task force representing Canada at some of the meetings with the automakers in Washington D.C., that took place back in 2016-2017. At that point, we were already looking at ways to ensure we would continue to have direct access and maintain consumer choice.

And frankly, there was not a lot of progress made. It was a bit of a runaround and we just stopped having those meetings with the automakers because we couldn’t really seem to get to a place where we could have some form of agreement.

And a little bit back to the opening answer to your first question, the strategy of the automakers I think, has been to deflect the questions and not directly tackle the challenge around telematics head-on.

AIA Canada’s Your Car, Your Data promotional strategies

Can you tell us some of AIA’s strategies and initiatives to help promote the right to fair access to repair information?

JFC: Absolutely, that is the reason we are here today.

Essentially what we need to do, is to ensure again:

  1. That people understand the vast amount of information that is being sent by their vehicle
  2. Make sure that consumers continue to have direct access to that information
  3. Be able to share that information with their repairer of choice.

This is why AIA Canada has joined forces with the Auto Care Association and AASA in the U.S., to bring the Your Car, Your Data, Your Choice campaign to Canada.

This campaign intends to show that firstly, this is a North American issue—in fact, a global issue but definitely something very specific to North America.

We want to have a solution that is uniform across the continent and also to convey that message to consumers that it is your car, your data and it should be your choice as to how you share that data for the maintenance and repair of your vehicle.

How to further fair vehicle data access

Is there anything that those working in the aftermarket can do to help further the cause and ensure they can continue to work on vehicles in the future?

JFC: Absolutely. There are two goals for our campaign and the first one is designed to mobilize and educate our industry. We have launched a website—vehicledataaccess.aiacanada.com. This is where members of the industry can go to pledge to talk to the customers, talking to their employees and taking positions on social media about sharing information with their peers and ensuring that we spread the message.

The second part is to drive people to a petition we have online, and that petition has been created to notify Minister Navdeep Bains, the federal government Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry about the importance of ensuring that consumers have access to and control of the wireless data in their vehicle.

So this is our call to action for the industry and we invite everybody to visit: vehicledataaccess.aiacanada.com to sign the pledge and sign the petition.

Final thoughts

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

JFC: As always, I want to close by saying one thing, just remember, it is Your Car, Your Data and Your Choice!

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