Every now and then the battle between dealerships and independent workshops seems to come into the light.
This is one of those genuine dilemmas, manufacturers obviously want to exercise some control over the distribution of information and channel car owners back to dealerships.
On the other side of the equation, independent technicians want information readily available to enable them to compete.
To ensure consumers are not deprived of choice there are some moves within the Federal Government to legislate a mandatory regime which would, to a degree, compel manufacturers to share service and repair information.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) moved quickly to challenge the need to legislate such a regime. Leading to the question is there really an issue?
Competition is vital to ensure the best consumer outcomes. It’s the most important pillar of the capitalist economy we all function in. It's the mechanism that drives innovation and value and importantly provides an accountability measure.
Anything that limits competition and consumer choice should make us all take note. Independent workshops are needed to keep Australia’s dealership networks honest.
Dealers are required to invest heavily in equipment and know-how, fairness would dictate that independents should also need to do likewise in order to access the information they need.
The FCAI makes some reasonable points, vehicles are becoming more complex with greater amounts of electronic wizardry that takes appropriate training to understand and repair. Independents should contribute to the cost of their professional development.
Generally, if government intervention is required the market has failed. To date, the evidence doesn’t suggest a market failure, so it’s more a move to provide certainty to all repairers which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Along with cars, I’m also a watch enthusiast. The romance of a mechanical timepiece in a digital age is something special. The Swiss watch industry has corroded market competition by cutting off the supply of spare parts which means owners have no choice other than to return to the manufacturer for service and repairs. This hasn’t lead to improved consumer outcomes.
Now I know lots of you will whip out the tiny violins for those fortunate enough to wear a prestige timepiece, however, most owners purchase second hand after years of saving.
It’s the same way lots of car enthusiasts get to own their dream car. There are parallels to be drawn here.
Legislation that guarantees all repairers access to information and spare parts is worth a discussion at the very least. Establishing a transparent process and cost structure for independent workshops will deliver the certainty business is always seeking (according to the media) meaning competition can continue doing its thing.