, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 20, 2012

Suddenly, battle lines drawn over auto repair question


The manufacturers and automakers over the past two weeks have begun running radio ads urging voters to “never mind” when it comes to the auto repair question, one of three initiatives on the ballot.

“Question 1 on the ballot is no longer necessary. It’s done. We all won. Skip Question 1,” a narrator says in one spots paid for by the Citizens Committee for Safe and Fair Repair.

“We have no plans to pull them or to change message at this time,” said Dan Gage, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in an email.

Kinsman said the Right to Repair Committee had plans to run similar ads, but had not yet gone forward with the campaign and had made no decisions on whether to spend money on ads urging voters to support the question instead.

Automakers and other business interests had strongly opposed the ballot question, calling it “poorly written,” saying it put intellectual property at risk and arguing it made “highly deceptive” claims that repairers do not have access to the information they need to fix cars.

Dealers also felt they won some protections in the compromise law for franchisees, protecting the dealerships from manufacturers setting up repair networks outside the dealership structure.

Just how quickly the Legislature might act to resolve the competing proposals should Question 1 pass remains an open question. Lawmakers have shown a reluctance to engage on the issue, with many saying they’re confused by it. Kinsman suggested there’s no rush given that many of the requirements don’t take effect for several years.

Rep. Theodore Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat who as chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection helped forge the compromise, said this week it’s hard to predict what the Legislature will do, and added that he hoped both sides would “honor the compromise.”

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