Mixed industry reaction for right to repair campaign

A growing number of organisations, spearheaded by The Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), are challenging the existing power the dealer network and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) exert over the South African public when it comes to car repairs and warranties.

As part of a global drive, the “Right to Repair” Campaign (R2R) lobbies for consumers to have the right to select where their vehicles are serviced, maintained and repaired at competitive prices in the workshop of their choice.

The campaign which was launched in SA in 2013 aroused interest and support once again at Automechanika last year. Vishal Premlall, Director of MIWA, which represents 2 500 independent aftermarket dealers, said since then meetings have been held with some of the larger manufacturers including Nissan SA, AMH Group (TATA headoffice) , Suzuki SA, BMW SA and Ford SA.  MIWA has also interacted with a number of different associations including the TDAFA (Tyre Dealers and Fitment Association), NAACAM (representing SA automotive components industry), NAAMSA (National Association of Automotive Manufacturers), the OEM Technical Committee, NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) and NCC (National Consumer Commission). On the component side meetings have been held with Bosch SA, MAHLE (automotive parts manufacturer) and Grandmark SA (quality aftermarket spares).

Premlall says reactions have been mixed with some of the organisations having a very  clear understanding of what is happening in first world countries and aware that it is only a matter of time before we see this legislated in SA, to some having little knowledge of R2R as a whole.

“South African legislature needs to follow the international Right to Repair trend which promotes South Africa’s existing consumer and competition laws,” explains Premlall.

“There is a need for a fair and competitive regulatory environment that enables freedom of choice for the consumers and that gives aftermarket Small Medium Enterprises a chance to stay in business,” he adds.

Premlall says it is important for all parties to collaborate during this very important lobbying phase and while it is positive to see the campaign gaining traction is some areas, it is disappointing that despite many efforts to engage with the other OEM’s,  they have resisted meeting.  “It remains an imperative for MIWA that we engage and collaborate with all OE’s and importers that may be affected by R2R in SA,” he says.

“Access to information is increasingly important in an era of technological advancements. Not having access to certain information has allowed OEMs to monopolise the automotive industry by refusing to provide the requisite codes for security systems, diagnostic systems and telematics systems, to independent aftermarket dealers.

We believe that  both the lack of access to information and the stringent framework surrounding warranty, maintenance and service plans, minimises, if not destroys, the consumers right to choose and places OEMs and their franchise dealers with the exclusive control of that segment of the market. This imbalance needs to be addressed in South Africa as it has in other parts of the world,” he concludes.