Alliance for Automotive Innovation sues to block Massachusetts vehicle data initiative

In a significant development, a group representing Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co, and Toyota Motor Corp and other major carmakers filed a lawsuit to block the state of Massachusetts’ ballot initiative that aims to significantly expand the access to vehicle data.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved the initiative to revise the state’s 2013 “Right to Repair” law to require carmakers to provide expanded access to mechanical and electronic repair data and allow independent shops to repair units having sophisticated technology.

The group said, if the law goes into effect, “years of manufacturers’ work and billions of dollars in investment to protect and secure vehicle data will effectively be obliterated.”

The lawsuit will help determine as to who will control the $390 billion U.S. auto data aftermarket in this digital age. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation trade group has also asked a U.S. district court judge in Boston to block the law which is scheduled to come into effect in the 2022 model year.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Carmakers have advanced the argument that in order to ensure the privacy and safety of consumers, modern digital cars will need to be serviced and repaired by only authorized dealers. The move will also limit information and warranty parts to those authorized dealers only. They have argued that vehicle data is complex and sensitive and uses proprietary technology; repairing modern cars will require extensive training.

Independent repair groups have rebuked these restrictions as an attempt to seize control of the lucrative repair market and as a way to force consumers to shell out even more for expensive manufacturer-affiliated dealer shops. They have also raised concerns that automakers are increasingly pushing for wireless repair data transfers, which caps third-party access. In July, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had said, the measure “requires vehicle manufacturers to redesign their vehicles in a manner that necessarily introduces cybersecurity risks, and to do so in a timeframe that makes design, proof, and implementation of any meaningful countermeasure effectively impossible.”

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