Feds Tell Automakers To Ignore Massachusetts’ Right to Repair Law

NHTSA says allowing third parties to access certain in-car data is a significant safety risk.

byPeter Holderith|
Associated Press
Associated Press. AP


NHTSA has stated that automakers should pay no heed to Massachusetts' 2020 Right to Repair Initiative, as it claims it presents a significant safety risk to consumers. The overwhelmingly approved statute in the Commonwealth requires automakers to allow third-party repair shops to access data reserved for dealers and the manufacturers themselves. In a letter to automakers obtained by Reuters, federal regulators claim that malevolent third parties could "utilize such open access to remotely command vehicles to operate dangerously, including attacking multiple vehicles concurrently."

The Massachusetts law was already under attack by automakers. The trade group Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents several car companies, sued the state to block the statute and has requested a federal judge prevent its enforcement.

Federal law takes precedence over state law, and as such, NHTSA has the final say in enforcement. Its letter was sent to General Motors, Tesla, Rivian, Stellantis, and others.

The right-to-repair movement is growing when it comes to cars, tractors, and other products. Automakers insist some data should only be accessible by themselves and dealers, but consumers in several states have claimed that leads to car companies holding an effective monopoly on parts and service. This is particularly clear in the case of Tesla, which once quoted an owner $16,000 for a fix that was eventually completed for $700.

Recently, John Deere caved and allowed many software locks to be bypassed by farmers and independent equipment repair shops. Previously, hacking was necessary to allow some repairs to agricultural equipment to be made, and necessary is the right word. A report by the Public Interest Research Group claims that John Deere has just one dealer for every 12,000 farms in the U.S.

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Other states like Maine with planned right-to-repair laws could see the same rebuke from the federal government. It's a huge blow to the movement which seeks primarily to protect consumers. It's especially discouraging in the face of the NHTSA's own alleged internal deficiencies.

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