Former right-to-repair foes now united against Question 1
BOSTON – Auto dealers and repair shop owners were once on opposing sides of a bitter dispute over the access to repair data for newer cars. Now the two groups have come together to urge voters to ignore a ballot initiative in November.
Both sides met Thursday at the State House with top state legislators to present a unified front in asking voters to skip Question 1 when they vote.
“We need to let people know that when people go to the ballot box in November, and people should still vote, they have the information necessary to decide if they want to skip Question 1,” said Arthur Kinsman, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee.
The committee, a coalition of auto repair shops and parts dealers, had led the charge to require auto manufacturers to share with repair shops computerized data used to diagnose and fix late-model cars.
The group raised 120,000 signatures to put the question on the November ballot. But after the Legislature passed a compromise bill on the last day of formal session in the summer, the two sides agreed to join forces to eliminate the ballot question.
Gordon Fry, director of state affairs for Global Automakers, echoed the sentiment of Kinsman, his one-time rival.
“We see this as a real victory, and owners can show their support for this legislation by skipping Question 1 on the ballot,” said.
Although the last-minute legislation settles the issue for the two sides, it was signed into law too late for the question to be removed from the ballot. The ballot question still remains popular. A Sept. 17 poll by Suffolk University and WHDH-TV Channel 7 found 79 percent of 600 likely voters support the question.
Neither the right-to-repair advocates or automakers asked the public to vote yes or no on the ballot question, but rather to just skip it entirely.
“We share the sentiment that it’s difficult to tell voters how to vote, and we’re very supportive of encouraging them to skip the question since the Legislature has already addressed this issue,” said Matthew Godlewski, vice president of state affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
The auto dealers and repair shop owners, along with the legislators who passed the new law, said it provides more safeguards for consumers, auto repairers, and automakers.
Although both sides will continue to work to get the message out to voters that right-to-repair legislation has been passed, the Legislature will have to listen to the people and take another look at the law if the ballot initiative is passed, said state Sen. Thomas Kennedy, D-Brockton, co-chairman of the Joint Consumer Protection Committee.
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