Safelite, LKQ and others were among the companies highlighted by the Federal Trade Commission in its report to Congress last week as being critical of certain OEM practices of automobile manufacturers.
The FTC report listed several ways in which manufacturers restrict independent repair and repair by consumers including:
• Product designs that complicate or prevent repair;
• Unavailability of parts or repair information;
• Designs that make independent repair less safe;
• Policies or statements that steer consumers to manufacturer repair networks;
• Application of patent rights and enforcement of trademarks;
• Disparagement of non-OEM parts and independent repair;
• Software locks and firmware updates; and
• End Use License Agreements.
With regard to disparagement of non-OEM parts and independent repair the report said the record reflected that the issue is of most concern in the automobile industry.
The FTC specifically referred to comments made by Safelite during the public comment process (letter from Edward Sprigler, vice president strategic initiatives, Safelite Auto Glass, September 14, 2019). Safelite said that their partnership with vehicle manufacturers, “as the nations largest purchaser of Original Equipment Equivalent (OEE) replacement vehicle glass … and the nations largest purchaser … of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) logoed/branded vehicle glass”, has been strained due to the scare tactics of manufacturers and dealers with the advent of ADAS technology. Safelite explained:
It is disturbing then to have our customers, who for whatever reason, make contact with a new vehicle dealer and when inquiring about ADAS recalibration, they are told in the best case your vehicle MUST have an OEM windshield or worst case you must use OEM branded glass and the car needs to be (re) calibrated at a dealer for the system to work to the most incriminatory using non-OEM glass will void your warranty. These difficult situations are a regular occurrence for Safelite to have to manage with individual vehicle owners, as well as our fleet customers. Regardless of how bold and aggressive the tactics, all such statements are purposefully intended to sow fear and doubt in the mind of the customer with the hope that the customer will feel compelled to go to the dealership to purchase OEM glass and have the dealership perform the recalibration.
Attached to the Safelite letter were documents from Subaru and Volvo as examples of such “scaremongering” tactics. The Auto Care Association also referred to similar bulletins from Honda and Kia in their comments.
Comments made by LKQ Corporation said that several automobile manufacturers limit the availability of key replacement parts to only their authorized repair networks. The FTC said that “Manufacturers’ control of spare parts makes it a challenge for individuals and independent repair shops to replace consumable parts that are likely to need replacement during the course of a product’s useful life …”
LKQ was also cited for their comments that a vehicle’s telematics are currently only available to manufacturers. LKQ asserted that “… vehicle manufacturers control the telematics for marketing purposes”. Telematics was the front and center issue in the “Right to Repair” initiative recently approved by Massachusetts voters.
The FTC will seek to follow up on the report, “Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions,” possibly through legislation, to expand consumer repair options.