Why Maine mechanics say they need a 'right to repair' law

By Billy Kobin, September 29, 2023

BREWER, Maine — The garage at VIP Tires and Service in Brewer was filled Thursday morning with four vehicles, several technicians, buzzing tools and the smell of oil.

Wesley Luther hopped in the driver’s seat of a white 2019 Nissan NV200 that needed engine work and plugged in a scan tool allowing him to review an array of diagnostic data on airbags, engines, turn signals, steering and more.  

To get a better feel for what’s wrong, he could walk over to a computer he bought himself for his work area and type in the Nissan’s license plate number plus a code provided by the scan tool to zero in on various details.

Luther is in relatively rare company. He is among a select group of certified world-class technicians. With nearly $250,000 worth of tools and VIP’s resources, he can quickly fix most vehicles and problems arriving in the garage. But dealerships and automakers do not always provide all of the wireless telematics — or real-time vehicle data — to independent shops.

“All it’s going to do is hurt the economy in the end and hurt people,” he said.

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Press Release

2023

VEHICLE RIGHT TO REPAIR LAW HEADED FOR BALLOT INITIATIVE

Coalition Submits 70,000+ Signatures to Protect Independent Car Repairers and
Consumer Repair Choices in Maine as New Wireless Technologies Threaten Car
Owners’ Rights to Get Cars & Trucks Repaired Wherever They Choose

AUGUSTA—Today, a group of Maine independent repair shop owners, employees, and right to repair supporters submitted more than the required number of voter signatures to the Secretary of State to put an initiative on the November 2023 ballot. The initiative will protect their right to repair new cars and trucks as automakers make it increasingly harder to access the repair and diagnostic information necessary to do so.

More than 90% of new cars are now equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly only to vehicle manufacturers, threatening the rights of consumers to choose to get the cars they own fixed at trusted independent repair shops or do the work themselves. 

“Vehicle owners should be able to take their car or truck wherever they want for repairs or fix it themselves, not be forced to go to more expensive dealerships,” said Tim Winkeler, President, and CEO of independent repairer VIP Tires & Service in Auburn and one of the signers of the initiative. “Ensuring that local independent repair shops have access to the information they need to fix cars at a fair price is what this ballot initiative is all about. Automakers are increasingly using technology to try to shut us out from repairing the newest models of cars and trucks.”

A national agreement in 2013 between automakers and the auto repair and auto parts
industries forced automakers to provide access to repair and diagnostic codes and information but did not cover the rapidly expanding wireless technologies now installed in new vehicles.

The ballot initiative would give Maine car and truck owners access to all of the diagnostic and repair data generated by their car so that they could opt to provide access to any dealer, repair shop, or automaker that they choose during the lifetime of their car. 

Patrick Horan of Autoworks in Kittery said, “Now that cars are more computerized, automakers are using technology to prevent us from fixing the next generation of cars and trucks. The only way to protect our shops and our customers’ right to get their car fixed wherever they want is to pass this law.”

A similar ballot initiative passed with 75% voter support in Massachusetts in 2020, despite automakers spending more than $25 million to try to defeat it. Implementation of the Massachusetts law is on hold pending a decision by a federal judge after automakers sued to prevent it from going into effect.

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Press Release

January 2023

VEHICLE RIGHT TO REPAIR LAW HEADED FOR BALLOT INITIATIVE


Coalition Submits 70,000+ Signatures to Protect Independent Car Repairers and
Consumer Repair Choices in Maine as New Wireless Technologies Threaten Car
Owners’ Rights to Get Cars & Trucks Repaired Wherever They Choose

AUGUSTA—Today, a group of Maine independent repair shop owners, employees, and right to repair supporters submitted more than the required number of voter signatures to the Secretary of State to put an initiative on the November 2023 ballot. The initiative will protect their right to repair new cars and trucks as automakers make it increasingly harder to access the repair and diagnostic information necessary to do so.

More than 90% of new cars are now equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly only to vehicle manufacturers, threatening the rights of consumers to choose to get the cars they own fixed at trusted independent repair shops or do the work themselves. 

“Vehicle owners should be able to take their car or truck wherever they want for repairs or fix it themselves, not be forced to go to more expensive dealerships,” said Tim Winkeler, President, and CEO of independent repairer VIP Tires & Auto Service in Auburn and one of the signers of the initiative. “Ensuring that local independent repair shops have access to the information they need to fix cars at a fair price is what this ballot initiative is all about. Automakers are increasingly using technology to try to shut us out from repairing the newest models of cars and
trucks.”

A national agreement in 2013 between automakers and the auto repair and auto parts
industries forced automakers to provide access to repair and diagnostic codes and information but did not cover the rapidly expanding wireless technologies now installed in new vehicles. The ballot initiative would give Maine car and truck owners access to all of the diagnostic and repair data generated by their car so that they could opt to provide access to any dealer, repair shop, or automaker that they choose during the lifetime of their car.

(Mike Higgins of Mike Higgins Auto Repair in Kittery and a signer of the initiative OR Another Repairer) said, “Now that cars are more computerized automakers are using technology to prevent us from fixing the next generation of cars and trucks. The only way to protect our shops and our customers right to get their car fixed wherever they want is to pass this law.” 

A similar ballot initiative passed by a 75% to 25% margin in Massachusetts in 2020, despite automakers spending more than $25 million to try to defeat it. Implementation of the law is on hold pending a decision by a federal judge after automakers sued to prevent it from going into effect.

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Press Release

October 2022

SECRETARY OF STATE GIVES RIGHT TO REPAIR THE GO-AHEAD TO COLLECT SIGNATURES.

The Maine Secretary of State has approved the petition allowing independent auto
repair and parts store operators to collect signatures to get a Right to Repair question on the 2023 ballot. This would solidify Mainers' ability to get their auto fixed at their trusted independent car repair shop of choice, or to diagnose their vehicles on their own if they so choose.

"We’re pleased that the Secretary of State has given independent auto repairers across Maine the go-ahead to collect the signatures needed to get this important question on the 2023 ballot. Car and truck owners in the state deserve the right to choose where to get their auto diagnosed and fixed. New wireless technology threatens that right by transmitting diagnostic data directly to the manufacturer and dealer. A Right to Repair law is critical. Without it, consumers will have no choice but to go to a more expensive dealership.”

Tim Winkeler, President & CEO for VIP Tires & Service, Auburn, Maine

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Bangor Daily News

Summer 2022

The fight coming in Maine over the ‘right to repair’

One of the most interesting political stories in Maine that developed over the last week is not classically political at all — a right-to-repair referendum being proposed by advocates of independent repair shops.

It is a response to rapid changes in the automotive industry toward proprietary diagnostic and repair technologies in new vehicles that wirelessly transmit information to manufacturers. Those programs make it difficult or impossible for owners to fix issues themselves or take vehicles to local repair shops. Those shops, in turn, are worried about being progressively shut out of the market.

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Portland Press Herald

Summer 2022

Independent Maine auto repair shops pursuing right-to-repair referendum

A group of independent Maine auto repair shop owners, their employees and supporters filed an application for a citizens initiative with the Secretary of State’s Office announcing their intentions to seek a statewide referendum in 2023 that would protect their right to repair new cars and trucks.

The Maine Right to Repair Coalition contends that more than 90 percent of new cars are equipped to wirelessly transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information only to vehicle manufacturers. Right to Repair advocates say this practice threatens consumers’ right to choose to get their cars fixed at an independent repair shop or to even do the work themselves.

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Press Release

Summer 2022

Right to Repair for Cars & Trucks Ballot Initiative Filed in Maine

A group of Maine independent repair shop owners, employees, and right to repair 
supporters today filed a petition with the Secretary of State to protect their right to repair new cars and trucks as automakers make it increasingly harder to access the repair and diagnostic information necessary to do so.

Once the petition is issued, a signature drive and campaign will be organized in hopes of having the initiative on the 2023 ballot if it is not passed by the legislature beforehand.

More than 90% of new cars are now equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and 
repair information wirelessly only to vehicle manufacturers, threatening the rights of consumers to choose to get the cars they own fixed at trusted independent repair shops or do the work themselves.

“Maine needs to pass a Right to Repair law because wireless technologies are removing
the car owner’s right to get their vehicle repaired at their local, independent shop
because the automaker would rather steer them towards their expensive dealer,” said
Tim Winkeler, President and CEO of VIP Tires & Auto Service in Auburn and one of the
signers of the initiative. “Automakers are increasingly using technology to try to shut us out from repairing the newest models of cars and trucks.”

A national agreement in 2013 between automakers and the auto repair and auto parts
industries forced automakers to provide access to repair and diagnostic codes and
information but did not cover the rapidly expanding wireless technologies now installed in new vehicles.

The ballot initiative would give Maine car and truck owners access to all of the diagnostic and repair data generated by their car so that they could opt to provide access to any dealer, repair shop, or automaker that they choose during the
lifetime of their car.

Mike Higgins of Mike Higgins Auto Repair in Kittery and a signer of the initiative said, “Cars are like rolling computers now and automakers are using a loophole in the

national Right to Repair agreement to try and prevent us from fixing the next generation of cars. We already can’t access Tesla repair and diagnostics, and more and more brands are moving in that direction. This hurts our shops and all Maine consumers.” A similar ballot initiative passed by a 75% to 25% margin in Massachusetts in 2020, despite automakers spending more than $25 million to try to defeat it. Implementation of the law is on hold pending a decision by a federal judge after automakers sued to prevent it from going into effect.

A portion of the key language of the initiative is as follows:

“No later than one year from enactment of this statute, a manufacturer of motor vehicles sold in the State of Maine... that utilizes a telematics system shall be required to equip such vehicles with an inter-operable, standardized and owner-authorized access platform across all of the manufacturer’s makes and models. Such platform shall be capable of securely communicating all mechanical data emanating directly from the motor vehicle via direct data connection to the platform. Such platform shall be directly accessible by the owner of the vehicle through a mobile-based application and, upon the authorization of the vehicle owner, all mechanical data shall be directly accessible by an independent repair facility or a dealer licensed pursuant to 29-A Ch. 9 sec. 851(2) and (9), limited to the time to complete the repair or for a period of time agreed to by the vehicle owner for the purposes of maintaining, diagnosing and repairing the motor vehicle.”


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Paid for by the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee, 647 US Route 1, Suite 213 York, ME 03909