Who will win: The car moguls or the buyers?



Scenario One: Your car breaks down on the Stuart Highway some 300 klicks from Alice Springs. You call a mechanic, he meets up with you, identifies the defect, drives back to Alice to collect parts, returns to your car, fixes it and drives to Alice. Mechanic travels 1200 kms.

Scenario Two: When you bought your car, along with a spare wheel and a jack you also  received a diagnostic tool. When you first contact the mechanic you tell him what’s wrong. You read it off the tool. Mechanic sets out with the spares he needs. Mechanic travels 600 kms.

It’s a no-brainer but some – most? – vehicle manufacturers don’t like it. When the News raised these issues in March 2015, a spokesman for Mercedes Benz told us: “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 [the car buyer] does not own the intellectual property of the vehicle. We do.”

We had spoken with a senior official at the AAA (the Australian Automobile Association) who had found an understanding ear from then Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson who regarded as the bottom line “consumer detriment”.

And that, here in the outback, could be a matter of life and death.

When we next tried to contact our man from AAA we were told he no longer worked there.

After-market diagnostic tools are available but they may not be reliable and their users have no authentic instructions from the manufacturers.

Fast forward to today: Country Liberal Senator for the NT Sam McMahon says in a media release that the Federal Parliament will establish a mandatory scheme for the sharing of motor vehicle service and repair information. 

She says: “We want consumers in the Northern Territory to be able to access servicing and repairs in a fair, competitive market.

“Under the scheme, the service and repair information that car manufacturers share with their dealership networks, must also be made available to all independent repairers.

The Scheme is anticipated to commence on July 1 next year.”

Surprise, surprise, the car industry is up in arms. Says the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries: “This is a red tape nightmare for everyone concerned. Repairers will have to make up to 60 separate annual applications to the car companies and other data providers.

“A simple change to the legislation could have made the process one application to prove eligibility to access information for all Australian car brands.

“Overnight, every car company in Australia will become a separate de-facto ‘regulator’.

“The legislation in its current form is inefficient, cumbersome, expensive and onerous for all parties,” thunders FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber.

This makes the FCAI’s claim it “supports the intent” hard to believe.

One obvious solution is to provide a diagnostic tool, or display it on the instrument panel, as is the case with some prime movers, and supply the complete set of instructions on a USB which could hang on the car key ring.

The owners could then share that information with their chosen mechanic.

Senator McMahon’s government could mandate that with the stroke of a pen.


  1. I know exactly what you mean.
    400 km down the track, and a warning light comes on.
    AANT from Mala picks up the vehicle, and back to Mala 20 km away.
    Mechanic there (great bloke, very knowledgeable and helpful) diagnosed problem, tube from turbo to engine has comes off.
    Puts it back on.
    His basic diagnostic tool cannot re-set the computer, and the turbo warning light stays on.
    Vehicle has to be trucked back to Alice to the dealer to have the thing re-set.
    Obviously the roadhouse cannot afford the estimated $5,000 to buy the codes for every vehicle.
    The manufacturers obviously have no concept of the remoteness and distances involved.
    Supplying the codes on a memory stick is an obvious solution, and it could be in a “read only” type of format so that the company retains control over the info, but it could be used on the designated vehicle.
    Perhaps an optional extra at a nominal cost for vehicles used in remote areas.


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