Here in Massachusetts the legislature is debating a bill called Right to Repair (RTR). Basically RTR says that automotive OEMs will not hinder the consumer’s ability to get their car fixed wherever they want. The implication is that OEMs are obstructing independent repair facilities (IRFs) from getting the maintenance manuals, parts catalogs, diagnostic codes and equipment that are needed to fix your car. And, since it’s your car, you should be able to get it fixed wherever you want.
On the surface RTR sounds very reasonable, after all the United States was founded on the belief in personal freedom—in this case the freedom to choose who fixes your car. But something doesn’t feel right about how this bill is being “advertised.”
To ensure passage of RTR, I’ve seen a huge amount of advertising—basically lobbying the public and the lawmakers to accelerate approval. And the ads are so biased that it’s almost impossible to discuss RTR without sounding like you’re against personal freedom (and that’s un-American).
The RTR lobbying campaign describes itself as protecting the little guy (IRF). However as each of the videos below will show, getting automotive repair information doesn’t seem to be a problem for IRFs.
Since it seems that IRFs can get the information they need, I’m left with more than a few questions:
- Who’s paying for the RTR lobbying campaign? (I want to know the real motive because I’ve seldom seen an expensive lobbying effort that is meant to benefit the public.)
- Why don’t the OEMs have an anti-RTR campaign underway? (Is it because they will be labeled un-American and “anti-consumer”?)
- How can the intellectual property of the OEMs be protected? (Low-quality parts and repairs can have a significant impact on OEM brand perception and loyalty—people rarely complain about service or parts but frequently complain about their cars.)
- What about the concern regarding security systems raised by law enforcement in this blog, is it real? (Contrary to the exaggeration in RTR lobbying efforts, OEMs haven’t said that IRFs steal cars.)
- What about the safety risks raised by the Mass Auto Coalition, are they real?
I have even more questions but that’s a start. It’s interesting to note that a personal friend, who’s also a mechanic, says he’s never had difficulty getting the information he needs to fix a car. However, his IRF prefers to focus on basic maintenance and repairs and let the franchised dealers handle the complex stuff. His shop doesn’t encounter enough complex problems to justify the specialized training and equipment and he has all the business he can handle.
So who’s really behind the lobbying effort for Right to Repair? And who will really benefit if it passes? Let the conspiracy theories start now!
Throughout 2010 several trends, which have been emerging for a number of years, have been brought into focus:
- The first trend is the reliance of OEMs on aftermarket revenues—it’s common for spare parts to represent less than 10% of total sales but more than 25% of profits.
- The second trend is an awareness of the risks—from regulatory fines and recalls to litigation and brand perception—associated with bad service and support.
- The third trend is the growing complexity of the aftermarket environment. With sophisticated machines driven by CPU-controlled components, and sophisticated business processes driven by automated/integrated service schedules, inventory and logistics, it’s difficult for companies to gain control over the complexity of aftermarket service and support.
Each trend has a ripple-effect on companies’ current and future business plans but the impact of these ripples is not fully understood. As OEMs grapple with the need to improve business operations, for both manufacturing and aftermarket support, they don’t always “connect-the-dots” between these trends.
Let’s look at some of the underlying issues that currently affect equipment OEMs and operators:
- Aftermarket revenue is hijacked by independent maintenance providers and parts distributors.
- Maintenance decisions and recommendations carry an element of risk beyond poor performance—automakers incur huge costs and tarnished brands due to recalls and safety notices; airlines receive million dollar fines for flight delays and non-compliant airplanes.
- Troubleshooting, part selection and maintenance execution all play a critical role in protecting brand perception.
- Service information impacts maintenance decisions which impacts inventory and logistics. Inventory and logistics information impacts service schedules which impacts maintenance execution.
- Maintenance has become more complex (too complex?):
- Growing installed base
- Larger maintenance organizations
- Longevity of equipment
- Complexity of equipment
- Variety of equipment
- Multiple information sources and formats
- Increasing use of electronics and programmable components
- IT projects have become more expensive and carry greater risk
- Long implementation time
- Cost of hardware, software, integration and customization
- Change management
- Need for fast ROI
For equipment OEMs and owner/operators there is a bi-directional relationship between aftermarket service information and all other business processes (one impacts the other) but few companies recognize it. Enigma does. We believe that information should serve the organization (the whole organization), not the other way around. Aftermarket service and support is a key driver of profit and loss. Therefore, it is imperative for equipment OEMs and owner/operators to find ways to leverage the opportunity and guard against risk.
In a subsequent blog, we will highlight ways in which companies have capitalized on these aftermarket trends and provide some advice for reducing costs and delays.