Neil Pattemore, the aftermarket’s ‘man in Brussels’ believes that there is a very poor understanding among garage owners when it comes to the new business opportunities that may be developing, but more worryingly, there is little appreciation for the threats that are coming over the hill.
The last year or two has shown that the aftermarket is approaching a real crossroads, such that being able to do the same thing yesterday, today and tomorrow will no longer be easy, or even possible. In the past, the aftermarket has been very inventive in finding ways of being competitive with other independent workshops and also main dealers (or authorised repairers as they should be correctly called).
Many independent workshops do not fully understand the level of legislative support that has been achieved to ensure that independent operators (again to use the correct description) are able to compete. This started with Block Exemption and evolved into Euro 5 legislation that provides significant access and use rights of the technical data, vehicular access and support that is required for virtually all workshop diagnostics and repairs. This legislation has been developed as part of the Europe-wide requirements and is underpinned by the vehicle type approval requirements.
However, the automotive landscape is changing, both technically and politically at an exponential rate and this is further complicated by Brexit!
The European legislation is developed and implemented by the European Commission (with significant ‘oversight’ from both the European Parliament and the European Council of Member States), but the current tenure of both the Parliament and Commission will end in September 2019, following the new Parliamentary elections this summer. This means that there is a certain pressure to complete some of the current legislative activity. There may also be a slowing down of new legislation until the new Commission is in place from September.
One of the hot topics in Brussels is the access to in-vehicle data. Although this is currently through the OBD connector, due to the necessity to communicate with a vehicle remotely for autonomous vehicles there is already a significant issue over ‘cybersecurity’ and, consequently, a restriction of how the access to in-vehicle data will be possible.
This is also being addressed at the UNECE level in Geneva, where cybersecurity Regulations will also be developed.
There is significant lobbying from all stakeholders for the ‘3rd mobility package’ legislation that is currently being formulated, which may sound quite obscure from the aftermarket perspective, but it will set the agenda for how a vehicle and its data can be accessed. Quite simply, the vehicle manufacturers want to control all access to the vehicle and its data and, consequently, they can control who diagnoses and repairs any vehicle.
There are also changes to existing legislation that will have a beneficial impact on the aftermarket. The existing Euro 5 legislation that was implemented in 2007 included all the requirements for ‘bumper to bumper’ access to repair and maintenance information (RMI). However, these changes have taken a lot of time to come to fruition, but at last the requirements for standardised access to each vehicle manufacturer’s technical data directly via their website (ISO 18541) will now be referenced in the legislation, as will the ‘SERMI’ scheme, which provides an accreditation scheme for independent workshops to access security repair and maintenance information and replacement parts via the same vehicle manufacturer’s website, including the ability to fit and code (where needed), or conduct software updates via a standardised interface for ‘pass thru’ programming.
Another ‘legacy’ requirement from the existing legislation is the ‘remote diagnostic support’ that will allow a workshop to assess a vehicle breakdown or functional problem when the vehicle is ‘on the road’, but this is being proposed as being fulfilled by the vehicle manufacturers’ ‘extended vehicle’ model, which would provide them with details of you and your customer in a directly competitive situation, so is being strongly challenged by the aftermarket associations in Brussels. However, as this is part of the bigger picture of remote access and cybersecurity, it is unlikely to be either fast or easy to resolve.
The wider discussions concerning access via the OBD port to in-vehicle data, the access control using electronic certificates, the proposal concerning the extended vehicle model and the overarching questions of cybersecurity and product liability are interwoven into a difficult legislative landscape and for the European Commission there are still studies and investigations being conducted to try to better understand the best way forward in a rapidly evolving technical scenario and how future requirements can be implemented in legislation.
On another subject, the Roadworthiness Directive (MOT tests) will be updated to include the technical information needed when using the OBD port to test in-vehicle electronic systems and this should also be referenced in a new ISO 20730 standard. There are also increasingly vocal calls to control ‘emissions tampering’ concerning AdBlue manipulation and DPF removal, so there may also be changes in both the legislation and roadside testing to address this issue.
There is also a planned revision of the Machinery Directive, that is much needed after a study showed that out of 47 lifts inspected throughout Europe, 11 (23%) were found to be non-compliant. The Garage Equipment Association has called upon the Commission to act for stricter and more effective market surveillance to prevent the deaths and serious injuries that have been seen in recent years continuing.
Looking slightly further ahead, the updated version of the Euro 5 legislation will come into force in September 2020, but before then, there are questions of spare parts identification information and how vehicle manufacturers’ databases will now be made accessible to independent operators (particularly parts distributors and technical publishers) in ‘an electronically processable’ way. This will provide more accurate identification and cross-referencing to the original parts fitted to individual vehicles.
Although the new Commission will be in place later this year, between now and then there is much to do concerning existing legislation, as well as preparing for the new Commission and future legislation. Do not underestimate how much of this new legislation, both in Europe and here in the UK after Brexit, will profoundly change the way the aftermarket can continue to be independent, innovative and competitive.