Championing the motorist’s right to choose

Wendy Williamson, chief executive of the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) looks at the challenge of allowing fair competition in a technological era and the motorist’s right to have the choice of where they take their vehicle to have it repaired or serviced.

With almost every new car these days having telematics capabilities in varying degrees, the level of sophistication on vehicles has become quite staggering, and nowadays they really are more like computers on wheels. And computers that are increasingly connected to servers and portals so that drivers’ daily movements are being constantly monitored – where they are, where they’ve been and what speed they’re doing.

Legislation to ensure the aftermarket has the right access in the future is needed. Certain vehicle manufacturers are in the process of closing the on-board diagnostics port on their current production models. The current legal position is that they’re only required to keep the port open for emissions testing.

Another area of concern for the IAAF is extended vehicles. For those of you who don’t know, an extended vehicle is where the manufacturer has access to all the vehicle data managed through their servers, their interfaces, using their permissions and their tools.

This threatens the very livelihood of the independent garage, as all unmonitored access to the vehicle would be lost, and businesses would rely solely on the manufacturers to give information in a format and time frame which would be completely down to them.

So we mustn’t let technology become an excuse for unfair and distorted competition, and our aim, as always, is simply to have a level playing field so that we can continue to do what we’ve always done – to give motorists a choice about where they can take their vehicles to be serviced and repaired, professionally and competitively.

We launched the Your Car Your Choice campaign to inform motorists that they can take their vehicle, irrespective of age, anywhere for servicing without invalidating the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty.

Motorists have a choice and can legally take their vehicle to be repaired or serviced at any independent garage, franchised dealer or autocentre. Providing parts and fluids of original equipment quality have been used in accordance with manufacturer’s service schedules, you will NOT invalidate the warranty. Hard to believe that 70% of garages still aren’t aware of this fact, so the figure for drivers will surely be significantly less.

Millennials don’t rely on word of mouth – they Google where to get parts, where to find a service and get their cars repaired. And that’s assuming they even own their car. Ownership patterns are also changing. Consumers can lease a car for a standard monthly fee covering insurance, repairs, tyres - all they need to do is put in fuel. Or they can join a car club or rent a vehicle by the day, or even the hour. It’s so important that the aftermarket adapts and changes to ensure that we don’t get left behind.

And finally, with autonomous vehicles comes a new set of challenges and opportunities where we have new entrants such as Google, Apple and others who won’t have heard of yet bringing a whole new perspective to our industry.

The automotive sector is facing a profound transformation as a result of changes in the technological arena. Our aim is to ensure that the independent aftermarket continues to enjoy freedom of access and compete fairly and safely in the future. Not only does this benefit out sector, but also benefits the consumer.


See the BVRLA’s campaign page on vehicle data and Future Mobility position paper.


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Wendy Williamson

Chief Executive, Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF)

Wendy has been a BVRLA guest blogger since August 2019.