Your car, your choice: Blenks Auto and other independent repairers demand access to new vehicles' computers

Car manufacturers could someday force every independent repairer out of the market if a current trend continues, a Murray Bridge business owner says.

Paul Blenkiron, of Blenks Automotive and Performance, said the trend towards on-board computers that could only be accessed by manufacturers was making it more and more difficult for third parties to fix new cars.

For example, a regular customer from the Mallee recently brought in a Holden Rodeo he had bought a week earlier, because the engine warning light had come on.

He had been fishing at Salt Creek and had to have it towed all the way to Murray Bridge.

Blenks' staff looked at it, a Repco expert from Adelaide came and spent a day looking at it, but they could not get into the Holden's on-board computer to find out what was wrong.

"We couldn't get the simple information we needed for the test we needed to check the car," Mr Blenkiron said.

"All we needed was a security PIN to get the two modules to talk to each other.

"I've invested in over $50,000 worth of diagnostic equipment and I can't get a four-digit code to finish the job."

A Holden dealer refused to provide the codes, so Mr Blenkiron ended up sending the car to Adelaide, again on a tow truck, to be repaired elsewhere.

Mr Blenkiron's business wore the cost, hundreds of dollars.

"I've always said if we can't fix it, you don't pay for it," he said.

Labor Senate candidate Marielle Smith visited Blenks on Tuesday to hear the story and share a solution her party would implement if it won government at the upcoming federal election.

A Labor government would force manufacturers to pass on the codes needed to access vehicles' computer systems – not for free, but at a fair commercial rate.

"The guys in the workshop have all the skills they need, but they need some data or a code," Ms Smith said.

"I don't ever want to see work ... taken to Adelaide when it could be done here (in Murray Bridge), because that's local jobs, thats an opportunity for a car to be serviced here at a family business."

The proposal echoes a recommendation of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission from December 2017, following its study of the new car industry.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association has also lobbied for a level playing field in the automotive repairs industry since 2007, saying manufacturers' claims that new cars had to be serviced at dealerships, and that genuine branded parts had to be used, were incorrect.

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