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Right to repair: mutual co-operation needed

The OEMs and the independent aftermarket have been going at it hammer and tongs for years, with the OEMs trying to block the independent workshops’ access to the OEMs’ proprietary information, while the independents desperately need access to this information to allow them to service their clients’ motor vehicles.

Market share is the name of the game, and it’s a battle between two giants and two legal imperatives: intellectual property rights vs the customers’ right to choose a repairer. This battle has many casualties and many implications. Currently, the franchise dealers are restricted to a smallish pool of captive customers, whereas the independent workshops are not able to service the latest models because of diagnostic barriers.

Both of these scenarios have unfortunate consequences for the franchise dealers and the independent workshops, and even worse it is the consumer that gets caught between the protagonists. Most agree this is an illogical situation, particularly in the light of the number of vehicles on the road, and the need to keep these vehicles in a roadworthy condition. Access to parts is becoming easier and easier - in Germany alone there are currently in excess of 20 million automotive parts available to purchase on the internet via eBay - so why do the suppliers of these parts not open direct channels to franchise dealers, to allow them to service all makes and models?

Bosch in China is looking at a two tier strategy: firstly, to provide a specific level of parts for older vehicles outside of warranty to the OEM franchise dealers, and secondly, to provide brand specific parts, diagnostic equipment, training and education to selected OEM franchise dealers, as if they were Bosch accredited workshops. Revolutionary, yes, but with a crying need for superior service levels in China, it could solve a major problem.

The quid pro quo would be the OEMs dropping their protectionist stance. Think of the consequences of this trade-off. Suddenly all qualifying workshops would have access to all the parts and proprietary information that they need, without barriers, and the defining levels of competition would be customer service and technical competency. It would be a win-win-win situation for franchise dealers, independent workshops, and most importantly, the motorist.