Automakers Are Fighting ‘Right To Repair’ Laws Again

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Massachusetts voters scored a victory for car owners everywhere when they approved a ballot initiative for a “right to repair” law a few weeks back, over industry opposition. Well, carmakers are back at it again, dragging things to court. All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 30, 2020.

1st Gear: Bullshit Then, Bullshit Now

Massachusetts tried to pass a right to repair bill back in 2010 and failed. But it succeeded this year, ensuring that car owners (and independent repair shops) won’t be locked out of access to their own cars’ diagnostics and repair info. It was a pleasant win for consumers, and of course it was fought by carmakers themselves.

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What’s not surprising is that the industry is still fighting the law after voters approved the measure, claiming that compliance is impossible, as Automotive News reports:

The measure updates the state’s law by requiring automakers to equip vehicles that use telematics — which collect and wirelessly transmit information such as crash notifications and remote diagnostics — with a standardized open-access data platform that is accessible to vehicle owners or third parties such as repair shops starting with the 2022 model year.

But now major automakers allege in a federal lawsuit that the revised law poses cybersecurity and vehicle safety risks and the short timeline sets an “impossible task” for compliance.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation — which represents General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and other automakers — filed the suit Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, requesting that it find the law “unenforceable because it is unconstitutional” and conflicts with federal laws.

The group also is asking the court to “temporarily and permanently” block the law, which is scheduled to take effect by Thursday, Dec. 3.

The industry group is still playing the security/privacy angle, which is just fear-mongering, as Automotive News colorfully notes:

The group says the short time frame “presents serious practical problems that will impact cybersecurity and vehicle safety.”While cybersecurity expert Ryan Barrett agreed the compliance timeline is “not realistic” for the automakers, he said most of the security information that could be gleaned from a vehicle such as a home address is already available.“They will use this as a cybersecurity incident to say that there’ll be more information, but I don’t believe the cost of more information getting out there, as most of it’s already out there,” said Barrett, CEO of Oram Corporate Advisors in Newton, Mass. “The juice is not worth the squeeze on this one.”

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Your ability to access information in the car that you bought follows common sense, so it’s entertaining to see what kind of clownish arguments carmakers come up with to fight it.

2nd Gear: Is VW Going To Fire Its EV Boss Or What?

VW CEO Herbert Diess has been very chatty in the news lately, in part because he’s pushing his company aggressively towards EVs after the whole “clean diesel” plan backfired into Dieselgate.

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The launch of VW’s EV era has been a little troubled, however, with the first of the company’s all-electric models struggling to get into showrooms and driveways.

Little surprise then, that Reuters published “VW’s executive committee to discuss Diess’ future, report says” today:

Volkswagen Group’s executive committee is convening on Tuesday to discuss CEO Herbert Diess’ demand for a contract extension, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

“The options will be put on the table,” one of the sources said, adding that the outcome of the deliberations remains unclear.

[...]

Diess’ has encountered opposition from the board to his efforts to reform the automaker and he may review his position if his attempts continue to be stifled, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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I’m rooting for an all-electric VW empire, so I guess I’m rooting for Diess here.

3rd Gear: Ford’s German Fiesta Factory To Build VW-Based EVs

This is an interesting one. We’ve known that Ford will be using VW’s MEB platform for making electric vehicles of its own. More recent news is that this week the Financial Times reported that VW won’t be making an all-electric compact hatchback around the size of the VW Polo.

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Today we’re hearing that Ford will be making its VW-based EVs at the same Cologne plant where it makes the Fiesta compact hatchback, as Automotive News reports:

Ford Motor Co. has chosen its factory in Cologne, Germany, to build a mass-market electric car based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB electric architecture, local media reports said.

The automaker will invest 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) into the factory for EV production, according a report in the Cologne newspaper, the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, and other media.

Ford picked Cologne over its factory in Craiova, Romania, the Stadt-Anzeiger said, citing sources close to the automaker. Craiova had been considered the favorite to get EV production because of its lower labor costs, the paper said.

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I wonder if these two news items are related!

4th Gear: Tesla Production In China Is Moving Forward

Fresh off of some recall announcements here, Tesla got some good news in China. The first is that it’s being allowed to sell made-in-China Model Ys over there, as Reuters reports:

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published the approval on its website on Monday.

Tesla sells its locally built Model 3 electric cars in China and has been expanding the Shanghai plant where they are manufactured to start making the Model Y, which reports say will start production early next year. The automaker applied for permission to sell the Model Y earlier this month.

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The second is that it’ll be making its own EV chargers there, also per Reuters:

Tesla Inc. plans to start manufacturing EV chargers in China in 2021, according to a document submitted to the Shanghai authorities by the U.S. automaker that is seeking to expand sales in the world’s biggest car market.

Tesla, which now sells its Model 3 sedan in China and expects to deliver its Model Y crossovers in 2021, plans to invest 42 million yuan ($6.4 million) in a new factory to make the chargers, also known as charging piles, near its car plant in Shanghai, the document seen by Reuters said.

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Tesla is a perfect fit for the Chinese market, but it’s not a Chinese company. Any inroads it makes are against a backdrop of government support for national businesses there, so these feel more like wins than developments.

5th Gear: Hummer EV Is Brewing Dealer Drama

The GMC Hummer EV has been spurring some drama between GM and its dealer network, as the company has been fighting to keep price gouging down and dealers have not been jazzed about it, as Automotive News reports:

For the next two years, GM will be pulling Hummer dealers’ strings, doling out inventory based solely on customer orders and encouraging standardized pricing. The automaker even asserts the right to limit GMC dealers’ interactions with Hummer buyers, according to a portion of the brand’s “electric models participation agreement” shared with Automotive News by a dealer.

Dealers “can feel the breathing on the back of their necks,” said Joe Aboyoun, partner at the Aboyoun-Dobbs law firm in Pine Brook, N.J. “Hopefully that’s just part of the startup process. But there is a concern that this is just the beginning of a new methodology that clearly constitutes a violation of the franchise relationship.”

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There’s no way that GM would get away with pressing these kinds of issues on a totally normal car, so in part it’s both unsurprising and interesting that this is happening on a vehicle with a high price tag and new tech for the company. It makes me wonder if GM is trying to get away with something here it hopes to spread to more mainstream models.

Reverse: Your Favorite Car Writer Would Never

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Neutral: What’s The Newest Car You’ve Worked On?

I did a decent amount of work on my old 93 Lexus ES300 with the help of my coworkers, but I don’t think I’ve done much wrenching on anything newer. What has your experience been like in the age of touchscreens?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

5th: GM’s supposed “meddling” is good for their customers. Dealers get away with underhanded bullshit all the time, so to try to keep the Hummer EV’s at MSRP isn’t a big deal, and shouldn’t be to these dealers. They’ll do anything (and sell anything) to make a buck, even sacrificing business ethics to do so.