Dartmouth repair shops speak out about Question 1

Oct 13, 2020

Like everyone else in Massachusetts, Dartmouth residents have been inundated with ads about Question 1 on the upcoming election ballot in November.

But what is it actually all about?

If approved, Question 1 would require carmakers to install a standardized open data platform for their vehicles’ telematics systems — which can record and transmit location data as well as speed, fuel consumption, and vehicle faults, among other data — from 2022.

This open platform would allow third-party repair shops to access their customers’ telematics information, with permission.

According to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website, a no vote would keep the existing right to repair laws in place.

Currently, automakers are required to let independent repair shops access the same diagnostic and repair information that they give their own dealers. But the law excludes most telematics, the Consumer Affairs website states.

This means that smaller, independent repair shops would have to either buy the information from the dealerships or just send customers there to get their repairs done, said Michael from Brum’s Ultimate Repair on State Road, who declined to give his last name.

The consumers are going to pay more money if it doesn’t go through,” he noted. “Because they’re going to have to be forced to go to the dealerships.”

“We have a small banner that we put in the window here to encourage people to vote yes,” noted Tom Raad, owner of Tom’s Auto Repair on State Road. “I believe people should have the right to fix their car wherever they [want].”

Well-funded campaigns for and against the question have taken out a slew of TV and billboard ads arguing each side. 

As noted on Ballotpedia.org, the “Yes on 1” campaign is led by the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition and backed by donors including the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality, Auto Care Association, Auto Zone, and a few other auto parts companies.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data is leading the “No on 1” campaign, with such top donors as General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Nissan, among others.

The question’s supporters argue that open access to data will allow customers a wider choice of repair shops, while opponents argue that the new rules could make it easier for any company or individual to access — even sell — customers’ data.

“They’re very misleading, and they’re confusing people more and more, these ads,” said Michael. “It’s a scare tactic...What’s stopping the dealer from stealing information [now]?”

“Let’s be realistic — they’re doing it to make money,” he added.

Raad agreed that the anti-Question 1 ads are “scare tactics,” calling them “ridiculous.”

“They’re gonna try to monopolize the repairs,” he noted of the carmakers funding the ads. “It’s pretty simple if you think about it. Who’s paying for this?”

“They’re not doing it because they care about the people,” he added. “They’re doing it to get people into the dealership.”

A manager at Colonial Honda of Dartmouth declined to comment, while those at the town’s Kia, Nissan, and Toyota dealerships could not be reached for comment.