Small Shops Struggle with High-tech Car Tools

Physician's Money Digest, January 2006, Volume 13, Issue 1

Wall Street

Journal

Wall Street Journal

If you have ever brought your vehicle toyour local repair shop and have beenturned away because your mechanic doesnot have the necessary equipment to fix it,you are not alone. As vehicles havebecome increasingly more computerizedand complicated over the past 10 years,many manufacturers require expensiveand oftentimes unaffordable diagnostictools simply to figure out what is wrongwith your car. Small, independent garagesthat work on several different brands arehit the hardest because they do not havethe money to invest in each manufacturer'stool, according to the . For example, Ford Motor Cocharges independent repair shops $11,000for a Volvo scanning tool and the accompanyingsoftware. In fact, a study by theresearch firm Tarrance Group of Alexandria,Va, found that 59% of independentauto technicians had problems acquiringnecessary equipment or informationfrom manufacturers, and 67% of shopshad to divert business to a dealership.Such an epidemic of lost business mayexplain why parts and service comprise44% of dealer profit, while 28% stemsfrom new car sales, according to the. After years of problems,the concerns of drivers and mechanicsare finally getting heard. This pastNovember, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex) spoketo a House Energy and Commerce subcommitteeabout the Motor VehicleOwners'Right to Repair Act, which heintroduced in March. If passed, the billwould direct the Federal Trade Commissionto institute rules that wouldensure independent repair shops anddealers have equal access to repair informationand equipment.