21 Jun, 2024

A Fight Over the Right to Repair Cars Takes a Wild Turn

The federal government’s stance in Massachusetts appears to conflict with its general views on the right to repair. In 2021, President Joe Biden ordered the Federal Trade Commission to create new rules making it harder for manufacturers to limit who can fix the devices they create.

Amid competing letters, statements, and legal paperwork there’s a fundamental question, one that Massachusetts tried to find the answer to: Who owns the resources of data created by today’s increasingly software- and computer-chip-enabled vehicles?

For decades, those advocating for the right to repair—that is, the idea that once you buy a product, you get to decide how to fix it—held up the auto industry as one that was doing it right. Car repair has long been the domain of the at-home tinkerer. As a result, independent auto repair shops and aftermarket parts manufacturers have made billions of dollars tuning and fixing vehicles.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters became the first to bring the concept into the modern age by requiring automakers to add an onboard port that allowed anyone with a cheap tool to access a car’s data. The law led to a nationwide agreement, where automakers guaranteed independent repairers and owners would have access

1 min read