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Barton backs motor vehicle legislation

New bill expected to give car owners more power
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, is taking to the road with new legislation –– the Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act.
As newer cars are fitted out with diagnostic computer systems, in keeping with the Clean Air Act, dealerships’ propriety codes in many cases prevent deciphering by independent mechanics. This is a problem Barton and other lawmakers want to correct
"Consumers have long valued the ability to choose where to have their automobiles serviced and repaired," Karen Modlin, the congressman’s press secretary, said recently. "Before the introduction of (this) technology, independent shops and franchise dealerships were essentially on a level playing field when it came to the ability to service and repair cars. Today, independent repair shops are facing obsoleteness due to a lack of information necessary to operate on vehicles. A decrease in competition threatens to drive up the costs to consumers.”
The new bill, if adopted, would require the Federal Trade Commission to allow independent repair shops, dealership franchises and vehicle owners access to the same vehicle information. Currently, independent technicians, like Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex repair shop owner Mike Toombs, find it difficult to acquire or afford the scanning and other decoding equipment necessary to fix some of the newer cars.
As Toombs told the McClatchy Syndicate this week, "With the equipment I have, I can only go so far."
Barton and others behind the proposed bill say the laws as they stand are unfair to small business owners and consumers, but representatives of some major dealerships contend that the proprietary codes they install in their vehicles are there to protect their customers from unlicensed or unscrupulous mechanics.
“We get a lot of cars in that have been totally messed up by mechanics who don’t know what they’re doing,” said Donna Smith, a Dallas-area Ford Motor Company service advisor who consults with customers throughout the metroplex, including Ellis County and Ennis. “Technicians at dealerships go through extensive training to learn how to correctly diagnose problems specific to each model vehicle. Customers want their cars to be cared for by people who know most about them. It just makes sense. I mean, you wouldn’t return shoes to the coat department.”
While technicians like Coombs say consumers will lose out if the Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act doesn’t pass, dealership representatives like Smith think that the measure, if it becomes law, may cause more customers to suffer at the hands of less than thorough mechanics, moreover that they won’t be saving money if they have to pay the dealership to fix what an independent mechanic has bungled.
Nevertheless, Barton maintains: "I believe consumers need to have a choice in auto repair, whether foreign or domestic, and they should be able to choose where they have the vehicle repaired. The legislation has one purpose –– putting vehicle owners in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing where to have their car repaired."

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Posted by on Dec 28 2006. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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