Responses to the draft code of conduct for the automotive industry are in and it’s clear that finalising the code is not going to be an easy process. “We did anticipate a strong opposing response from the Original Equipment Manufacturers because the current status quo suits them just fine,” says Les Mc Master, Director of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA).
“We agree that the code needs to be realistic and practical. The true reality in South Africa is that consumers can no longer be denied the right to have their vehicle serviced at a workshop of their choice and at an acceptable fee. For too long the OEMs have been restricting access and charging exorbitant fees. Things have to change,” he says.
Mc Master adds that the threat of disinvestment should not be used as a scare tactic to hinder change. “Far greater reasons for disinvestment would more likely be the current volatile political climate and depressed economy. Of more concern should be the potential job loss factor in the SME aftermarket automotive sector if a code enforcing access to information is not implemented. Independent workshops will not be able to sustain their businesses over the next few years if the current restrictions continue.”
When it comes to service plans, he emphasises that the aim is not to do away with service plans but rather to give consumers the choice of whether or not they want a service plan. “Consumers need to understand that they are paying a premium for a built-in service plan.”
He highlights that the European guidelines for competition in the automotive aftermarket have been tried and tested for 15 years. The United States too has a long history. “These are the biggest automotive markets in the world, with the strongest intellectual property rights. All OEMs in those countries are complying with the rules. Property rights are adequately protected and the size and strength of the automotive industry in those markets clearly shows that the concerns raised have no basis.”
“OEM representatives are claiming that anybody can currently participate in the industry on the same terms and conditions. Our stance is that it should not be up to the OEMS to lay down these terms and conditions, which is currently the case. They should be based on internationally acceptable competition law.”
“There can be no compromise on customer safety and quality of service. Access to information will ensure just that and will make servicing a more affordable option for South Africans, in turn making our roads safer,” says Mc Master.