Automakers Continue Efforts To Scuttle Popular Mass. 'Right To Repair' Law

from the fighting-the-tides dept

In late 2020, Massachusetts lawmakers (with overwhelming public support) passed an expansion of the state’s “right to repair” law. The original law was the first in the nation to be passed in 2013. The update dramatically improved it, requiring that as of this year, all new telematics-equipped vehicles be accessible via a standardized, transparent platform that allows owners and third-party repair shops to access vehicle data via a mobile device. The goal: reduce repair monopolies, and make it cheaper and easier to get your vehicle repaired.

Of course major auto manufacturers didn’t like this, so they set about trying to demonize the law with false claims and a $26 million ad campaign, including one ad falsely claiming the expansion would help sexual predators. Once the law passed (again, with the overwhelming support of voters) automakers sued to stop it, which has delayed its implementation. That same coalition of automakers (GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai) are pushing new legislation that would delay implementation even further — to 2025:

“The results of the lawsuit are still pending and automakers continue to fight. On Monday, Massachusetts’ Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure heard automaker backed proposals that would delay the implementation of the law until 2025. ?After spending $26 million only to be resoundingly defeated at the ballot box, the big automakers and dealers still don?t get it,? Tommy Hickey, director of Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, said in a statement.”

As with Apple, John Deere, and others, the claim that doing absolutely anything about their efforts to monopolize repair (be it DRM, or making manuals and tools hard to get, or suing independent repair shops) erodes public health and safety. Apple, you’ll recall, opposed a state right to repair law in Nebraska by claiming it would turn the state into a “mecca for hackers.”

But it remains an uphill climb for industry. Obnoxious and costly repair restrictions are hugely unpopular, and efforts to do something via legislation are overwhelmingly popular. More than 75% of Massachusetts voters supported the state’s expansion of the law. And the more these companies tend to fight back against the efforts with sleazy and misleading claims and ad campaigns, the more the public tends to become aware of (and ultimately support) these initiatives.

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Comments on “Automakers Continue Efforts To Scuttle Popular Mass. 'Right To Repair' Law”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I know your pain as this has happened to me twice over the years, but in today’s world I’m going to let this particular issue slide when it comes to the keys.

Think about it – The golden keys to the fob’s firmware out to anyone who claims to be a locksmith?

That’d be a recipe for disaster.

And to any Dealers that may be reading this – FFS have a mobile team go to the customers location instead of making us come to you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Think about it – The golden keys to the fob’s firmware out to anyone who claims to be a locksmith?
That’d be a recipe for disaster.

It’s not clear what you’re suggesting here. Are you saying the things are so badly designed that anyone with the ability to program them would be able to steal any arbitrary car?

The vast majority of house keys can be copied by any idiot with a file, and I’ve seen people walking around with the bitting visible. Electronic "keys" have the potential to be much more secure without relying on obscurity—the car should always "know" the list of authorized keys, for example, and be able to display it and revoke keys.

Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know if you know this, but any decent locksmith can open the front door to your house, which seems infinitely more scary than a locksmith opening your car.

All that said, I bought a few extra fobs from Pep Boys for my car. They were ~$15 each, compared to $50+ from the dealership.

Shockingly my car hasn’t been stolen yet, but according to your bizarre logic, that just makes me a far outlier.

wheatays (profile) says:

Read about this a little while ago on Ars, and the linked NHTSA letter in that is well worth reading.

It certainly appears that the bill, while seemingly shiny and fresh off the lot, was driven by technologically incompetent lawmakers who closed the hatch on subject matter experts and steered a bill full of vague language that will cross the line in a pileup of unintended consequences.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

A very important comment. I think that better legislation would require all system health information and measurements be available through the OBD-II connection. And to restrict the manufacturers from sharing any telemetric data gained with any third party without affirmative, time-limited, and revocable consent of the owner.

Honestly I don’t want any telemetrics available at all. Leastwise to the manufacturer, dealer, or government.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re:

… closed the hatch on subject matter experts…

You drove that point as "expertly" as your accused defendants of "right to rip off the motoring public".

First, you imitate the NHTSA in their confused conflation and/or separation of security/cybersecurity with safety, specifically on public highways. But in the end, the letter does iterate and reiterate that the Agency does not want to get in the business of defining security, that the congressmen should call upon the FTC for input of that nature.

Second, the Agency does specifically state, more than once, that it perceives a need for serviceability by authorized third parties. Note that the Agency once again does not define who’s authorized, they leave that up to the lawmakers and/or the industry, as they should. Their input is valid only insofar as public safety is concerned, and privacy/personal security is the polar opposite of public (safety or otherwise).

Third, there are no "subject matter experts" vis-a-vis rights to repair, there are only sub-field (singular topic) experts – security, safety, privacy, feasibility, technical capability, training, standardization, things like that. The whole realm of right-to-repair is too new to have experienced whole-field experts, Louis Rossmann notwithstanding. And when one attempts to prioritize a specific sub-field over the others in a transparent attempt to scuttle the law entirely, then one is indeed asking for trouble in PublicVille.

And lastly, you run against the public grain…. stupidly so. What it all comes down to is money, plain and simple. The vast majority of the motoring public (which is still only a part of the overall public) is very unhappy with being gouged at the dealerships. I’ll not list all the factors, they are numorous, but suffice it to say, if the public gets even so much as a whiff of freedom from that dealer lock-in, they’re gonna go for it, tooth and nail.

Will the Massachusetts law need tweaking after it takes effect? Quite possibly, because that’s the nature of the beast. But as a simple starting point, it’s nuts on. It’s needed, the public wants it, and all the car makers can come up with in defense is "what about (flavor-of-the-day whipping boy), won’t somebody please think of the whipping boy!"


The auto-pilot in your wheelhouse is going off-course, I strongly suggest that you revert to manual control. Ask yourself this question – who benefits if the law stands as currently written, and who benefits if it ends up in the boneyard? I’ll give you a clue – 5 letters, rhymes with funny or honey, and sits in your wallet. I think you can figure it out from there.

(FWIW, I sincerely hope that you aren’t as clueless as an orange two-year-old.)

cornflahkes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

this ballot initiative would require..that all vehicle manufacturers selling new telematics-equipped vehicles…design their systems in such a way that provides owners and third-party repair facilities with access to the vehicle systems through an inter-operable, standardized, and open access telematics platform. The initiative would specifically require that telematics platforms be directly accessible through a mobile-based application, and that this access must include the ability to send commands to in-vehicle components (including, e.g., braking, acceleration, and steering controls). While the initiative requires the system to be “secure,” it does not define what that vague term means, nor does it reflect any established best practices or other measures to address cybersecurity risks.

A car always detectable by an app requiring a short PIN and offering full remote control of vehicle systems could satisfy these requirements.

Well intentioned but incompetent laws are no improvement.

MathFox says:

Re: Re: Re: Source?

I do like to know the source of your citation… If the car makers allow remote control of the cars they make via their proprietary interface, do the consider the consequences of the protocol being hacked?

If you allow remote control you need a secure interface, if only to prevent a big mess when some hackers start disabling cars on the highway. If it’s just "telematics" I would say that the car owner has more right to it than the car vendor. (Yes, I know one can remote park a Tesla, but that has serious limitations on the car speed.)

ECA (profile) says:

ODB1 and 2

These were interesting ideas.
But adding computer diagnostics, That were generalized wasnt going to happen, and then you had to add the Specific Ways to read the data.
Then they added, NOT just monitoring, but abit of control inside that little box. Insted of outside mechanical or Direct digital controls you have this 1 BOX, that does it all.
And if the builtin alarm system fails, you replace the Whole thing, and not just the alarm.
IMO the estimated value of the hardware is about $50, with no bells and whistles.

And even with all that, they added something REAL special to Almost every new car. ELECTRIC EVERYTHING. Anyone old enough to know this? When the Electric doors start to fail, ALL 4 door will fail.

Professor Ronny says:


The thing I hate about all this is batteries. Specifically, the owner’s inability to change out batteries. My first smart phone had user replaceable batteries and I kept it for years and years, just swapping in a new battery every now and then. Try to find a smart phone these days where you can replace the battery.

It is not just smart phones. I’ve had to throw away two Fitbits, two iPods, and one iPad because their batteries died and it was either not possible (one Fitbit and one iPod) or not economical to replace the batteries.

This inability to repair has to be responsible for more ewaste than just about anything else.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Batteries

They say it takes up more room if they make it replaceable.

But the funny thing about tha past, was MOST companies Made most of the parts, where Now days Anyone can make the parts and Generally do, to sell to the corp making the devices.

In the past, unless repairs were allowed and extra parts made, only the manufacturer had access to those parts, if they contracted is so. Other wise repair parts were all over the place.

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