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AAA of the Pioneer Valley urges voters not to skip Question 1

St. Mary Cemetery in Northampton.
KEVIN GUTTING

St. Mary Cemetery in Northampton. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

AAA Pioneer Valley is asking voters to approve the so-called “Right to Repair” ballot question next month, despite a plea by state legislators to skip the question and allow a compromise law to stand.

The Nov. 6 ballot question, known as Question 1, would require auto manufacturers to make all vehicles’ diagnostic, service and safety information available to independent repair shops and consumers.

Up to now, such material has been available only to dealership service departments. Proponents say the change will expand options for consumers who need to get their vehicles serviced and repaired, bringing down costs.

The right to repair issue has been contentious nationwide, with auto manufacturers and dealerships lobbying to keep the status quo. They argued that the change would jeopardize proprietary information.

This summer, when it became clear that the public was firmly behind the ballot measure in Massachusetts, automakers made a U-turn. Legislators and Gov. Deval Patrick approved a compromise law that was supported by representatives of auto manufacturers and a committee pushing the ballot question.

The Legislature unanimously passed Right to Repair, and Patrick signed it into law on Aug. 8. Despite the compromise, the question will still go before voters because the law was approved after a deadline to remove it from the ballot.

Meanwhile, AAA Pioneer Valley in West Springfield and AAA Southern New England in Providence, which represent some 2.4 million members statewide, said the compromise addresses some of its concerns, but also contains many loopholes.

“We believe that the compromise grants concessions to the automakers that provide loopholes for them to continue guarding vehicle information,” Chris E. Mensing, president and CEO of AAA of Pioneer Valley, said in a press release.

Chief among those is not requiring automakers to share all of the information on so-called telematics, mobile communications technology that would allow some pending vehicle problems to be diagnosed remotely.

Since the compromise was approved, legislators and the two sides of the once-bitter battle stood together at the State House to announce an education blitz to tell voters the question was no longer necessary.

AAA clubs have launched their own blitz, which will include emails, billboard announcements and an ad campaign. The clubs this week sent an email to 2.4 million members in Massachusetts, some 170,000 in the Pioneer Valley.

“AAA wholeheartedly believes that motor vehicle owners have the right to choose where they want to have their vehicles repaired,” Mensing said. “Your vehicle produces valuable information about its health and condition. AAA thinks you should own this information, all of it, and should be free to share it as you see fit.”

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