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Unity Across the Industry

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Sept. 19, 2022—It can be easy to overlook how inter-connected the automotive industry is, especially when everyone is focused on their own day-to-day operations. But the industry is vast, and there are plenty of collaborative opportunities to be found inside of that network. 

Thomas Tucker is the senior director of state affairs with the Auto Care Association. He recognizes that in this network, there is an impact to be made at every level, and in every state in the country.  

Tucker’s work involves both overseeing and implementing a 50-state government and regulatory affairs strategy. 

“Specifically, I review legislative and regulatory proposals to determine the impact in the industry and craft any responses to the proposals to ensure that the aftermarket position is heard and that we have a seat at the table where policy decisions are made,” Tucker explains.   

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tucker has been closely following the Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts. This legislation aims to provide fair access to repairs for all aftermarket providers. However, the final decision has been delayed multiple times. 

While Massachusetts and the rest of the country await this decision, the far-reaching impact has already been made on the greater automotive industry.  

“The topic is critical to the future of the industry and independent repair shops, not just nationally, but globally,” Tucker says.  

Tucker says that vehicle technology is advancing quickly. The pace is so fast that it can be difficult for legislation to keep up. But bringing the industry together on topics such as the Right to Repair can make a big difference in the long run.  

“If this issue isn't addressed properly, independent repair shops will be locked out of the market. Consumers will be required to go to the franchised dealerships for any and all repairs,” Tucker says. “Can you imagine the catastrophic consequences to consumers and repair shops globally if there were no aftermarket? That's why this is important.” 

Tucker says that other states would be wise to take notice of the actions in Massachusetts as well. 

“The precedent would be for other states to adopt similar open access repair laws,” Tucker says. “The best-case scenario of course would be for the federal government to adopt a national law that would prevent a hodgepodge of state laws that could differ [and] cause confusion in the market. Currently, there's a group of citizens that have already set in motion a process in Maine for similar legislation or ballot measure.” 

Bring Everyone Together

In order to make effective progress, Tucker believes in an all-encompassing approach to the discussion of Right to Repair. This would include the input of independent repair shops and automakers alike. He believes that there is room for everyone at the table.  

“While we may have key philosophical differences, the industry needs a robust aftermarket and dealer network that keeps commerce moving,” Tucker says. “We're entering an intersection between technology and vehicle communications, and the industry must be operating on the same page.” 

At the ADAPT: Automotive Technology Summit, Tucker will be delivering the “Aftermarket Repair Information Keynote.” The Summit takes place on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. During this keynote address, Tucker looks forward to highlighting a discussion on many of the issues mentioned here.  

“This is an important opportunity for me to raise a few key issues as well as address the elephant in the room,” Tucker says. “That is, what are the proper roles and responsibilities of the aftermarket, the OEMs and the dealers as it relates to Right to Repair?”  

Tucker believes in the impact of a collaborative approach. He believes in the power of the automotive industry coming together to solve these problems.  

“We can resolve any dispute,” Tucker says. “But that requires open dialogue [and] collaboration, as well as a desire to find common ground.” 

At the end of the day, Tucker says that no matter what sector of the industry someone comes from, there are many goals to be had in common.  

“Despite our differences, we all want the same thing, and that is a dynamic customer experience and certainty in the market,” Tucker says.  

The Right to Repair, and all the areas of the industry that it touches, goes well beyond a single conversation. It’s an ongoing discussion, and it isn’t without its complexities. But Tucker believes in it as a worthy pursuit in determining what could be the course of aftermarket repair in the future.  

“At the Auto Care Association, we stand ready and willing to engage with the automakers to ensure their customers and our customers can gain access [and] control over their vehicle data and direct their vehicles to the repair facility of their choice,” Tucker says.  

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