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HomeUncategorizedTesla, Rivian Put on Fake Show of Support for ‘Right to Repair’

Tesla, Rivian Put on Fake Show of Support for ‘Right to Repair’

from the watch-what-we-do,-not-what-we-say dept

Fri, Sep 1st 2023 01:28pm –

Karl Bode

You may have noticed that there’s a massive, bipartisan push afoot to pass “right to reform” laws in many states making it easier and cheaper to repair the things you buy.

In a bid to undermine those laws, automakers and companies like John Deere have been using a fairly consistent playbook. One, they’ll lie about how such popular reform poses massive security and privacy threats to consumers. Two, they’ll strike hollow, voluntary agreements with key industry groups in a bid to pretend that the industry can self-regulate (they can’t) and real reform isn’t necessary (it is).

For example, John Deere has a long history of making tractor repair as inconvenient and expensive as possible in a bid to monopolize maintenance. And every so often they’ll strike a “memorandum of understanding” with a group like the American Farm Bureau Federation, pinky swearing that they’ll play nice if such groups avoid supporting right to repair legislation. It’s always bullshit.

The auto industry has taken a similar tack.

Under the banner of the “Alliance for Automotive Innovation,” the industry has recently struck deals with groups like the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) promising to play nice on right to repair issues if these organizations refuse to support state right to repair legislation. But again, activists say the voluntary agreements aren’t worth much:

“We don’t think it means anything,” said Tommy Hickey, director of the Right to Repair Coalition, whose group led the campaign to pass the Massachusetts Data Access Law in 2020. “If you read the language, it says we’ll only give you telematic information if it’s absolutely necessary.”

EV makers Rivian and Tesla recently made of show of supporting these recent agreements as evidence of their support for right to repair issues. But they’re not actually supporting meaningful new laws, they’re just supporting the empty, voluntary agreements the industry has struck with several trade groups to pre-empt new laws. There’s nothing actually meaningfully enforceable here; it’s the equivalent of a pinky swear.

Among the auto blogs that covered the announcement, few pointed out the hollowness of such agreements. In most of the blogs, Tesla, which was just hit with two class actions for unlawfully curbing competition for maintenance and replacement parts for its electric vehicles, gets to pretend it’s already leading the way on “right to repair” reform. Without actually having to, you know, do anything:

“Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy includes empowering independent repairers to service electric vehicles as the global fleet grows,” Tesla Public Policy and Business Development Vice President Rohan Patel wrote. “Through a comprehensive library of publicly available manuals and guides, Tesla already provides extensive information for independent and do-it-yourself repairers.

Both companies claim there’s nothing that needs fixing. But in the real world, Tesla’s efforts to monopolize repair and maintenance (as well as its terrible customer service) are well established. This is, after all, a company that just got caught not only intentionally and dramatically overstating EV ranges, but creating a team specifically designed to undermine customer efforts to get help.

In one instance, Tesla wanted $22,500 or more to replace a dying EV battery on a used car worth $23,000, when independent repair shops were able to do the same repair for less than $5,000. While Tesla does provide token diagnostic support for independent repair shops via its $3,000 a year (or $100 an hour) Toolbox platform, it still greatly restricts the far less expensive replacement of actual parts. Rivian repairs for even minor fender benders can also be comically expensive; not simply because the vehicles are complex, but because of elaborate, often-convoluted restrictions on repair and replacement parts.

Both Rivian and Tesla claim to be innovatively a step beyond the traditional auto industry, but when it comes to making automotive repair as expensive, nontransparent, and annoying as possible, so far they’re not too far out of step with the rest of the pack.

Filed Under: automotive, car repair, class action, maintanance, massachusetts, right to repair

Companies: rivian, tesla

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