There’s a problem being faced by many an independent and cheap mechanic on the Gold Coast and across Australia, with many of them saying that they’ll face tough times if the federal government do not make car makers to share computer codes and technical information.
Back in May, the government stated that the sector’s reform was a priority, but the industry body representing 22,000 independent auto-repairers across the country say that progress has been slow.
Guy Nicholls, from the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, stated that they’re up for it, as soon as possible. In Europe and America, he adds, these reforms are already in effect.
Motor vehicles are becoming increasingly complex, with some particular models possessing more computer code than airliners.
One independent mechanic; Kellie Dutton, owner of Island Auto Repairs on Bribie Island, stated that getting technical information from car makers was paramount to being able to properly support customers; if they don’t get it, she says, makes it hard to stay open.
Another cheap mechanic on the Gold Coast, Matt Sontrop, complained that he couldn’t get technical information from Mercedes, which he needed to turn off a service light and had to turn to YouTube to get answers. He says that a decade ago, it would only take 5 minutes, now, it can take about 3 hours.
The owner of that particular Mercedes, Carol Pittaras, says that they she could to an authorised Mercedes dealer, but that could be more expensive and inconvenient for her.
Back in 2014, car makers agreed to a voluntary scheme in which they would share more information with independent auto repairers, but Australia’s consumer watchdog has noted that that isn’t working.
According to a 2017 report, the Australian Competitions and Consumer Commission found the reluctance of car makers to share technical info was unfair, and could potentially push up the costs of repairs and servicing.
They recommended a mandatory scheme for the sharing of technical information, with the ACCC saying that the lack of competition hurts new car buyers who have fewer options to get the best for repairs and servicing.
Car makers, however, argue that the problem has been exaggerated, and they have good reasons for holding back key information. According to the Head of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Tony Weber, car makers cannot have a scenario where people are tinkering with vehicles that are complex, because it risks the safety of motorists and other road users.
The FCAI dropped its original opposition to a mandatory information-sharing scheme, but warned that such a scheme would take a while to negotiate. Weber believes that the government has realised that the issue is more complex that first thought.