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Dealerships play tough with local mechanics

RESOURCEFUL: Paul Vella of Gympie’s Velmec Automotive says mechanics are resourceful in the face of car dealerships attempting to lock out independent mechanics from accessing diagnostic knowledge for new cars.
RESOURCEFUL: Paul Vella of Gympie’s Velmec Automotive says mechanics are resourceful in the face of car dealerships attempting to lock out independent mechanics from accessing diagnostic knowledge for new cars. Patrick Woods

A MOVE by new car dealerships to block independent mechanics from accessing information, tools and computer programs needed to repair new vehicles has been slammed by the industry.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries' new voluntary code of conduct allows dealers to choose whether to make the resources available.

On the surface, the logic seems simple - if no one else can fix it, a new car will have to come back to its place of purchase for repair.

Velmec Automotive owner Paul Vella there was nothing new about dealers trying to lock buyers into staying away from independent mechanics.

"If the death of the local mechanic did happen, it would be from capped-price servicing," he said.

"But once that capped-price servicing package runs out, they come back to see us."

Mr Vella warned the FCAI may not realise what resourceful people it was up against, with electronic "trade secrets" often leaked online soon after their creation.

"The internet is a wonderful thing these days. Someone is always out to beat the system," he said.

Mechanics need permission to access information about security, safety and environmental features of new cars.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the regulations were nothing new.

"We will not tell you how to turn the airbag off," he said.

Australian Automobile Association chief executive Andrew McKellar said regional communities should be concerned about the new code of conduct.

"The car brands have sought to protect their own interests and the interests of their franchised dealers by limiting access to a range of service and repair information," he said.

The RACQ's technical and safety policy executive manager Steve Spalding took a similarly dim view.

"It's progressively getting more difficult for independent repairers to get the information they need," Mr Spalding said.

He said motorists had a right to choose their mechanic but agreed manufacturers had a right to charge for restricted information.

"Manufacturers have put a lot of work in preparing that information. But it should be made available for an appropriate fee."

WHAT THEY SAY:

Paul Vella: I haven't seen a death of the local mechanic. We've been looking for an automotive technician for the past month and still can't find one.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries: We've got exclusions around safety, security and the environment for good reasons.

RACQ: Mechanics have a right to carry out repairs. Motorists have a right to choose their mechanic.

AAA: The car brands are trying to protect their own interests. It's concerning for regional areas.

Topics:  business car gympie mechanic

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