SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election Forum

October 24, 2012

Our view: No on Question 1

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re confused by Question 1, the so-called Right to Repair bill, on the Nov. 6 ballot. There are a lot of moving parts.

As written, the measure requires that auto companies share with independent repair shops the computer software codes that keep their vehicles running. The codes are the property of the companies (think Ford, General Motors and Toyota), meaning drivers often need to get repairs done at dealerships, where the work costs more.

If the ballot question is approved Nov. 6, the auto industry would have to immediately turn over code information to independent repair shops and would have until 2015 to satisfy a mandate that all new cars sold in the state include an onboard diagnostic and repair system that can be accessed with a standard laptop computer.

Given the high cost of auto repairs, this seems like a slam dunk for drivers.

The issue isn’t that simple. Lawmakers and the auto industry reached a deal of their own in the waning moments of the last legislative session. They believe their compromise, which pushes the onboard diagnostic system mandate to 2018 and protects trade secrets and security measures like electronic keys, is better for all involved. They are urging citizens to vote no on the ballot question, allowing the legislative compromise to take effect. Even if voters approve the ballot question, the Legislature has the option of tossing it in favor of its own bill anyway.

Further confusing the issue is that groups such as AAA, which helped craft the compromise legislation, have backed out and now say they want the ballot question to pass.

So voters can approve Question 1 and its stronger tilt toward independent shops. Or they can vote no and allow the compromise to which those shops and large automakers agreed. We think both sides should stick to the compromise, which will benefit consumers and local small businesses while protecting the trade secrets large auto companies need to compete. We recommend a No vote on Question 1.

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