There is a piece of legislation currently trying to push its way through Congress known as the Right to Repair Act. According to the explanation on the bill’s website, the Right to Repair Act “…would develop regulations requiring car companies to share the same information and tools that they make available to their franchised dealers with the independent service industry and car owners.”
To the everyday consumer, this sounds like a great idea. Finally, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to have your ten-year-old Benz serviced at the dealership just because your neighborhood mechanic is terrified to even attempt to fix the crankwalk. I myself understand this unique problem, as I own a 12-year-old Volvo. Although I perform most of the maintenance myself, when I’m in over my head I take it to a professional mechanic. Invariably, upon hearing the word “Volvo,” one of two expressions appears on the master-technician’s face, either:
1. Dollar signs as he begins tabulating the cost of each part he will be forced to order directly from the manufacturer since Volvo parts are not interchangeable
2. Sheer, unadulterated, grown-man, terror, at the prospect of having to stumble through a mass of intricately individualized, sophisticated electrical and mechanical codes (true fact: the Mobile Audio guy at Best Buy literally took one look at the after-market sound system I wanted installed, put it down gently on the car seat, and slowly backed away).
Over the years, I’ve come to anticipate these reactions and have become fairly adept at handling the “virgin” mechanic. It requires much the same patience one would demonstrate when attempting to coax a skittish deer out of the forest: no sudden movements or loud noises. It also helps if you lure them slowly to the car while uttering non-threatening, soothing messages like, “It’s just routine maintenance…don’t be afraid little guy…” and “…why don’t you come over, nice and easy like, and we’ll have a look under the hood? I promise it won’t bite…”
Despite the fact that I can empathize with difficult-to-repair European-model car owners though, I don’t support the Right to Repair Act. It’s a frivolous piece of legislation that neglects to take into consideration the fact that cars are not a right. There is no constitutional statute that guarantees the inalienable right of every American citizen to own a really sick ride. That’s a luxury, and as such, it is ludicrous to hold an automobile manufacturer responsible for anything other than what is explicitly stated in the service agreement. Car companies are being portrayed as these huge conglomerates whose sole intention is to make money, and who don’t give a damn about whether you the consumer can afford to keep up with their standards of living – and you know what? That’s a dead-on-balls accurate assessment. They don’t give a damn about affordability, because they don’t have to. The automobile industry is exactly that – an industry, it’s a business. It’s not a philanthropic endeavor, nor should it be. Lamborghini does not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the brightest engineers in the business so you can go and stick a Ford Taurus intake filter in your Diablo. If you’re looking for a vehicle that can be routinely serviced with Bondo and some strategically placed duct tape, then bypass that 3-series BMW and take a look at a Geo Prism. Or take the bus.