Automaker Prevents New Car Owner from Accessing Her Vehicle’s Data

For Ilene Segal of Norfolk, Massachusetts, access to her vehicle’s data played an important role in her decision to purchase a new one in 2022. Ilene shopped around and settled on a 2023 KIA Niro EV SUV Wave because it was electric and offered, in her words, nice handling, good visibility, and lots of cool features. One of the features, she thought, would be access to vehicle data via an app that would connect to the car using a unique code. Among the data points Ilene thought she could access were roadside assistance, a calendar, weather information, vehicle diagnostics, maintenance information, a virtual assistant, and a KIA Connect Call Center. However, she soon learned that because she purchased the car in Massachusetts and lives in Massachusetts, the app and car would not be allowed to connect per the vehicle manufacturer. “No functional app, no data,” Ilene said.

Watch Ilene’s video below.

Ilene explained that the car salesman, although very nice, did not have much to say about the app or the inability to use it. The person who went over how to use the car when she picked it up from the dealership did briefly mention in passing that due to a Right to Repair ballot initiative in Massachusetts, KIA was restricting access to the app.

This confused Ilene because the ballot initiative focused on vehicle data access, known as Question One, was approved by Massachusetts voters in 2020 by an overwhelming margin of 75% to 25 %. It required manufacturers that sell motor vehicles equipped with telematic systems to allow vehicle owners to access the data through a mobile application and give consent to the independent repair facility to access that data. A similar initiative passed in 2013. Enforcement of the initiative is now being held up in federal court and in the meantime, vehicle owners are being denied access to their data.

Ilene noted that she had supported the Right to Repair measure not once but twice. She said, “My impression was that Massachusetts voters had passed an initiative TWICE that required car manufacturers to provide independent automotive repair shops with the ability to access information about the car to repair it. I still don’t understand how Massachusetts residents could be denied access to their own data about their own car.”

As a vehicle owner, Ilene believes this is wrong. Ilene said she supports all vehicle owners having the right to access the data about their car if they wish to have it. She said, “I believe very strongly that vehicle owners should have access to their own vehicle data.”

The CAR Coalition is fighting for the rights of consumers like Ilene by advocating for the REPAIR Act, which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation will:

  • Preserve consumer access to high quality and affordable vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and their repairers of choice have access to necessary repair and maintenance tools and data as vehicles continue to become more advanced.
  • Ensure access to critical repair tools and information. All tools and equipment; wireless transmission of repair and diagnostic data; and access to on-board diagnostic and telematic systems needed to repair a vehicle must be made available to the independent repair industry.
  • Ensure cybersecurity by allowing vehicle manufacturers to secure vehicle-generated data and requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop standards for how vehicle generated data necessary for repair can be accessed securely.
  • Provide transparency for consumers by requiring vehicle owners be informed that they can choose where and how to get their vehicle repaired.

As vehicle technology continues to advance, new barriers to a competitive auto repair market are emerging. These barriers limit consumer choice in where to repair their motor vehicles and increase the cost to repair and maintain vehicles. The REPAIR Act will reduce these barriers, putting consumers’ interests first.