Lifeline for local mechanics | exclusive

29 June 2016
, CarsGuide
Lifeline for local mechanics | exclusive
The landmark deal that could save local mechanic workshops from extinction.

There’s a spanner in the works for the car industry’s voluntary code of practice on sharing repair information.

Motorists could soon have a greater choice of where to get their cars serviced -- and thousands of independent mechanics may be saved from extinction -- following a commitment by all the major political parties due to be announced today.

The Coalition, Labor, The Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Motoring Enthusiasts Party have independently agreed to review the current voluntary repair agreement established by the car industry -- and give smaller workshops access to the same detailed repair data as dealerships.

The car industry formed a voluntary code last year but independent repairers say it is “merely window dressing”, as the information does not include critical software updates and dealer service bulletins for serious problems that fall just short of a recall.

“This information is available to independent repairers in the US and Europe and we see no reason why Australian repairers should not get access to the same information for a fair and reasonable cost,” said Stuart Charity, the head of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), which represents approximately 20,000 workshops.

“At the moment, only one car company provides independent workshops the same level of repair information in Australia as they do in the US. The others either block Australian (car serial numbers) on their overseas repair websites or block the use of Australian credit cards to access the information.”

The draft regulations -- based “word for word” on the US requirements -- have already gone through the parliamentary library service process, said Mr Charity.

The country needs smaller businesses to survive because the network of 2500 new-car dealerships cannot service all the cars on our roads.

The car company lobby group, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, established a voluntary code of practice for sharing repair information last year.

An online portal was designed to give smaller workshops access to manufacturer information.

“But the reality is the information provided is still not sufficient,” said Mr Charity.

The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), which has been supplying repair information to independent workshops across Australia for 40 years, says the country needs smaller businesses to survive because the network of 2500 new-car dealerships cannot service all the cars on our roads.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that vehicle manufacturers and dealers seek to retain as much of the vehicle repair data and associated customer relationships as possible,” said Geoff Gwilym, the Executive Director of the VACC.

 “However dealerships can’t service and repair all of the vehicles in the Australian vehicle fleet … which includes 13 million passenger cars.

“There is also an argument for consumers to have fair access to their vehicle data so that they can make an educated choice as to where they get a vehicle serviced or repaired.”

The chief executive of the FCAI, Tony Weber, said the car company lobby group has “always acknowledged the need for independent repairers”.

“The VACC-operated Tech Online and Our Auto nationally-available technical portal provides access to the largest automotive technical library in the Southern Hemisphere, plus has a call-centre operating during business hours. It has a 98 per cent resolution rate to technical enquiries,” said Mr Weber.

“There are various pathways to service and repair information, as evidenced by the fact that the vehicles are currently being repaired.”

Senator Ricky Muir, of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, is due to announce the proposed regulations at an event in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.

Are you affected by changes to the code of practice? Tell us about it in the comments below.