Publisher's Statement - April 2018

There’s enough of the pie to go around for everyone

Can’t we all just get along? It’s in the best interests of the independent aftermarket and the OEMs that we do.

Three national industry associations have again requested exemptions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that would protect consumer choice in both automotive replacement components and service.

Exemptions would also allow the independent aftermarket to sell products and service with access to vehicle data, as well as OEM software to engineer replacements parts.

There’s only 16,000 OE dealerships in the U.S., so they need the aftermarket, but in five or 10 years will there be a working relationship to have access to the needed information and tools to service and repair the fleet?

That’s the question that needs to be on the table. We need a fair playing field — for all segments.

Parts & People has previously reported that as products are increasingly using embedded software and code protected by the DMCA, they present difficulties in reverse engineering for aftermarket manufacturing. It has been argued that data information must be made available to all levels of the aftermarket while remaining sensitive to any concerns the OEMs might have, such as cyber-security issues. Perfectly reasonable on both fronts.

The solution will be partly legislative and good communication between industry associations and the OEMs. From a shop’s perspective, if the needed replacement part is not readily available in the aftermarket, then shops could quickly develop a habit of buying from the OE.

Is that in the best interest for everyone? Will it also result in stagnated product development and stymie aftermarket innovations that can improve on OEM part functionality and performance? Because that’s what the aftermarket does when it’s at its best.

The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and two of its divisions, the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) and MERA – The Association for Sustainable Manufacturing, assert that the U.S. Copyright Office can issue a narrowly tailored exemption for vehicle diagnosis, repair, or modification that better communicates the intent of the current vehicle repair exemption while remaining faithful to existing law.

“This is an important issue, striking at the heart of consumers’ freedom to choose where their vehicles are maintained and how they are repaired,” said Bill Long, AASA president and COO and executive vice president, government affairs, MEMA.

And it’s just as important to the aftermarket community. Let there be a free marketplace and have all segments vie for business.

Despite what Gordon Gekko said in the movie, Wall Street, greed is not good.

These issues remind me of some of the best shop owners and business folks who appear in our pages.

When asked about competition down the street or around the corner, they often have the same response —

“There’s plenty of work for everyone. We should all be working together.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.