Wrangle over your car's data not quite resolved


p2222-instrument-panelBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Car makers and owners aren’t quite on the same wavelength – yet – about access to the data identifying mechanical problems of vehicles.
James Goodwin, of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), which represents in the interests of more than seven million motoring club members, says all motor mechanics can now have access to this “diagnostic” information.
But David McCarthy, who looks after public relations for Mercedes Benz, does not agree: “We create this intellectual property and we decide who we are sharing it with.
“We set the conditions, the fees and the circumstances for sharing what is our data. It is a normal commercial discussion.”
He says the car buyer “does not own the intellectual property of the vehicle. We do.”
Mr Goodwin says that is not in accordance with the spirit of the agreement reached last year under the watchful eye of the Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson.
For example, the deal means the information needs to be accessible to anyone who is a member of the AAA, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association, the Australian Motor Industry Federation (motor traders) and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (Repco, Supercheap, etc).
The bottom line is “consumer detriment” resulting from denial of access to the data, says Mr Goodwin.
“If we have examples of consumer detriment, then that is what the minister and the AAA want know about.”
He says at this point the right to the data is not extended to the car owner, but even he or she may be able to make a case for “detriment” – especial people in the Outback, using their vehicles a long way from a mechanical workshop.
The AANT’s Edon Bell has told the News he’s keeping a sharp eye on the discussion.
Mr McCarthy says: “It is clear that the issue is a complex and difficult one. At the end of the day we will always put our customer first.
“We work with organisations that can responsibly and maintain the integrity of diagnostic capability. This is an ongoing matter and we support the agreement reached last year.”
PHOTO: What does it mean when the lights don’t go out?


  1. Electronic devices control just about every aspect of a modern car engine. A qualified mechanic without access to the relevant diagnostic equipment will be hard pressed to make the necessary repairs.
    I once worked on a vehicle after it had been taken to two different garages, not dealerships.
    Our diagnostic computer found the fault within a few minutes, but what was interesting was the captured repair history – both garages had replaced parts that were functioning perfectly.
    Equally, as very few cars remain from the 70s or early 80s, (which the average bush mechanic can keep going) people driving more modern vehicles in remote areas are severely disadvantaged by not having access to the essential diagnostic computers.
    Towing a vehicle several hundred kilometers to a dealership is a “head in the sand” solution.
    Instead of simply displaying an error code on the dash as in some vehicles, an image of the malfunctioning part and its location should be displayed. This would give the driver the option of ordering the necessary part and returning the vehicle to the road.


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