If the right to Repair SA (R2R) and the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) have their way, motorists will be able have their vehicles serviced at any independent workshop without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.
MIWA launched the initiative in 2009 before the Competition Commission launched its probe into the retail motor industry in 2017.
A not-for-profit company, R2RSA, was formed to drive the campaign, says Gunther Schmitz, the chairperson of R2RSA.
“R2RSA will allow consumers to select where their vehicles are serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices at a workshop of their choice. If you buy a car, the technical information is part of the purchase and must be made available to the consumer or to the workshop of their choice. There is a need for a fair and competitive regulatory environment that gives consumers freedom of choice and will help aftermarket small enterprises to stay in business.”
Dewald Ranft, the MIWA’s chairperson, says they saw the “unjust and uncompetitive behaviour of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who increased the coding of parts without making them available to the aftermarket”. Extending new car warranties, implementation of service and maintenance plans, more and more parts being deemed “theft-related” and not being made available to aftermarket service workshops, were other issues.
“These issues were successfully challenged by aftermarket associations around the world and the same change was needed here.”
R2RSA and MIWA independently submitted responses to the Competition Commission’s code. “One always wants more, but we support the current document, as it would help to bring real change to the marketplace and ensure a fair environment to do business in,” Schmitz and Ranft say.
“The current code will allow the consumer to choose so that they are not stuck with a dealership that gives him or her terrible service, as is the practice. There are numerous case studies about consumers suing independent workshops and franchises over poor workmanship,” Schmitz says.
Accountability for poor workmanship is a major problem, Ranft agrees.
“MIWA have strict quality criteria for our membership. Every MIWA member is required to have defective workmanship insurance.”
“But,” says Schmitz, “as with the franchise dealerships or APMMA, we do not like the idea of MIWA setting the standards. Neither should OEMs, insurance companies or any other competing business set the standard for independent workshops.”
MIWA said that even though they support the consumer’s freedom of choice, they recommend using a reputable workshop that displays the MIWA logo, which means that you have recourse.
Currently, the code is voluntary. “However, we know from the Australian experience that OEMs ‘ignored’ the voluntary code, which led to legislation and resulted in harsher measures against them. A voluntary code is doable if everyone shows commitment,” MIWA says.
R2R says vehicle manufacturers will make the technical information, tools and training material available, so independent workshops can access them, probably buy them, and use the information and tools to repair cars that have coded parts and special procedures required to maintain and repair them.
“More and more parts of a vehicle are being coded, so without the technical information to access the code, a repairer would be ‘locked out’ - unable to carry out a repair. The same applies to tools - there are specific tools, particularly diagnostic tools, designed for specific vehicles that are being retained by the manufacturers, inhibiting independent workshops from using them,” R2R says.
MIWA says they rely on information from colleagues in the EU or US, which is not ideal.
“The aftermarket workshops are excluded from receiving vital service material, which sometimes informs the repairer on life and limb modifications and factory recalls, among others. We see many vehicles with critical components that need modifications which potentially could lead to a tragedy on the roads.”
Schmitz says customers can’t tell the difference between original, pirate or used parts from a scrapyard, and the code will not change that.
“For years, consumers have been led to believe that original car parts can be obtained only from OEMs, that they are superior parts, and independent workshops deal in inferior parts, commonly referred to as pirate parts. This is not the case. Probably 99% of the parts required for repairs (excluding accident repairs) and maintenance are manufactured by suppliers such as Bosch and Mahle.
“Consumers need to know that OEMs buy these parts and sell them to the aftermarket, repackaged with their logo on them. The same parts from the suppliers are available to the independent repair workshops and are manufactured according to the same quality standards,” Schmitz says.
“Stick with brands you know and those recommended by a reputable, accredited workshop,” is his advice.