Kia, Subaru Disable Useful Car Features, Blames Mass. Right To Repair Law
from the underhanded-gibberish 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 only really help sexual predators. Once the law passed (again, with the overwhelming support of voters) automakers sued to stop it, which has delayed its implementation. Simultaneously, they’re pushing legislation that would delay the bill’s launch date until 2025, giving them more time to kill it.
In the interim, companies like Kia and Subaru have started disabling useful features (like remote start), and blaming the law:
“Subaru disabled the telematics system and associated features on new cars registered in Massachusetts last year as part of a spat over a right-to-repair ballot measure approved, overwhelmingly, by the state?s voters in 2020. The measure, which has been held up in the courts, required automakers to give car owners and independent mechanics more access to data about the car?s internal systems.
But the ?open data platform? envisioned by the law doesn?t exist yet, and automakers have filed suit to prevent the initiative from taking effect. So first Subaru and then Kia turned off their telematics systems on their newest cars in Massachusetts, irking drivers like the Ferrellis. ?This was not to comply with the law?compliance with the law at this time is impossible?but rather to avoid violating it,? Dominick Infante, a spokesperson for Subaru, wrote in a statement. Kia did not respond to a request for comment.”
Recall that the Massachusetts law needed to be expanded in the first place because automakers were behaving in predatory ways as they attempted to monopolize repair. That law is now on hold… and may never actually be implemented…because of the industry lawsuit. While complying with it may prove difficult given the archaic nature of many car systems (Wired finds an engineer willing to argue as much), completely disabling all telematics system seems performative. You’re to assume that the same industry that falsely claimed the law would only be of benefit to sex pests, is genuinely worried about compliance and not, say, interested in finding creative ways to vilify the new law or gain leverage in the ongoing lawsuit aimed at killing it entirely.
Given the industry’s track record of honesty so far on this subject, trusting that this truly was a purely technical consideration feels like a big ask.
In the interim this is only one of countless battles no going on around the country as consumers, farmers, medical professionals, and others fight back against obnoxious DRM, repair monopolies, and draconian crackdowns on independent repair. Three different federal right to repair legislative proposals were introduced this week alone, in addition to more than a dozen state proposals already introduced. At this point, for repair monopolists, the right to repair movement is a sort of finger trap puzzle in that the more they wriggle and clamp down on independent, affordable repair options, the bigger the movement gets.