Where do you go to have work done on your car?

If you are like most folks, once your new car warranty expires, you like to take your vehicle to a repair shop you trust and that is convenient to your home or business.

But, imagine if you could no longer do that, and had no choice but to return to the car dealerships for the entire life of your car.

This could happen. Why? Cars today are run by computers.

The car manufacturers don’t want to release the computer codes, which are required by technicians to determine what is wrong with a car before it can be fixed. Without these codes, the local, independent business owner cannot compete.

Would the service be the same? Would the prices be competitive? How convenient would it be? Whether you like your car dealer or not, it doesn’t take an economist to figure out that when there is no competition, prices rise and service suffers. This is truly a consumer-protection issue.

In Pennsylvania alone, there are nearly 9.7 million vehicles and only 1,230 car dealerships. I’m not great in math, but 1,230 divided by 9.7 million looks like the makings of a disaster for the consumers in our state unless something is done.

In addition, there are thousands of businesses in our state which repair automobiles as a living to keep you on the road.

Over time, they would be forced out of business because there would be fewer and fewer repairs on an automobile that they could fix.

Many in Congress fully understand the problem, and for the past couple of years have pressed for passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act. The bill would require car companies to share the same information and tools with independent repair facilities that they provide to their new car dealers.

Last year, the legislation gathered 100 co-sponsors, but Congress failed to pass the bill before it adjourned.

The problem is that the public does not seem to be aware of this challenge to their choices and its impact on both their pocketbooks and their mobility. Therefore, they are not contacting their elected officials about their concerns.

However, the new-car dealers and the large car companies have been making their voices heard in strong opposition to the legislation. Needless to say, they have very large and organized lobbying organizations in Washington.

While they may be powerful inside the halls of Congress, the motoring public is considerably larger and we can make our voices heard in the voting booths. Fortunately for the people of Pennsylvania, U.S. Sens. Robert Casey and Arlen Specter are in a position to help. But, they must hear from you.

If we work together, we can pass consumers’ Right to Repair legislation and thus ensure that the motoring public, and not the car companies, determines where its vehicles are repaired.

Call Casey’s office at (202) 224-6324 and Specter’s office at (202) 224-6324, or visit www.righttorepair.org to send a message to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation supporting Right to Repair.

Tell them that it should be your right to choose your service and repair source.

Jerry Schantz is executive director of Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Pennsylvania based in Harrisburg.

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