Baxter: Right-To-Repair Legislation Needed To Put Vehicle Owners, Not Car Companies, In The Driver’s Seat


April 6, 2024

Sara Baxter
Sara Baxter

Palm Beach (Fla.) County Commissioner Sara Baxter (right), who owns independent repair shop Foreign Auto Specialists in West Palm Beach with her husband, Brian, urges Congress to pass the SMART Act and REPAIR Act that would create a national vehicle right-to-repair law that would lower consumer cost and increase choice. She writes: “Vehicle owners need a federal right-to-repair law that will ensure they can choose where and how they get their car repaired, that will prevent automakers from holding patents on common parts for unreasonably long periods — which would allow aftermarket parts makers to compete — and that would give car owners more control over access to their car’s data and software needed to fix problems. This will spur competition, keep repair prices down and end automakers’ increasing control over your car and its data.”

Commissioner Baxter relates the story of a customer whose repair cost skyrocketed thanks to a lack of protection from automakers’ practices, which are designed to steer vehicle owners away from independent repair shops and aftermarket parts and toward automaker-affiliated dealerships and automaker-manufactured repair parts – which means higher costs and less choice for consumers:

“Our customer had his car towed into the automotive repair shop that my husband Brian and I own because it wouldn’t shift into drive. The software needed to analyze the problem, which we are forced to buy from the manufacturer, revealed a faulty transmission control unit. However, we had to inform our customer that the required repair part could only be purchased from the dealership. To even purchase the part, we had to obtain a costly special license. This made a $250 part skyrocket to $1,400, a cost that independent service shops like ours must pass on to the client.”

She spells out the need for Congress to pass the REPAIR and SMART Acts:

“Independent repair shops like ours are already not able to access some repair data we need — or we are forced to pay astronomical sums to automakers to regularly buy it. This double standard is why consumers need a national vehicle right-to-repair law, and why it’s important that Congress pass the REPAIR Act and SMART Act.

The REPAIR Act would guarantee that vehicle owners can get the parts, tools and information they need to choose aftermarket parts while ensuring cybersecurity is prioritized. The SMART Act would reduce automaker patents on collision repair parts from 14 to 2.5 years, which would allow aftermarket parts makers to make and test parts during the newly defined patent period.

These bills are common-sense measures that would ensure that consumers have more options and transparency when it comes to repairing and protecting their cars. They would also create a level playing field for independent repair shops, which employ Americans and support local economies. Moreover, Americans overwhelmingly want them. A June 2023 survey for the CAR Coalition conducted by YouGov found that 94 percent of American vehicle owners want to choose where their vehicle is repaired.

It’s time to end the automakers’ control over our vehicles and how they are repaired. Consumers need a national vehicle right-to-repair law, and Congress must pass the REPAIR Act and SMART Act.”

Read the entire article in the Town Crier