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Car and Small Business Owners Demonstrate at LA Auto Show

11 January 2000

Consumer Groups, Car Owners and Small Business Owners Demonstrate at LA Auto Show Against Alleged Unfair Practices that Threaten to Cost Car Owners Billions

    LOS ANGELES--Jan. 10, 2000--

Car in Chains, Circling Tow Trucks Dramatize OBD "Lock Out" by
Car Makers, Highlight Need for Consumer Protection Legislation to
Reform OBD Rules

    With chants of "Car Repair, Let's be Fair!" consumer activists, car owners and people employed in the independent auto parts and repair industry demonstrated this morning outside of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
    Their goal, according to Rosemary Shahan, president of the non-profit Consumers for Auto Reliability & Safety (CARS), who led the rally, is to end anti-consumer practices by car companies and their franchised dealers that threaten to put more than 57,000 Californians out of work and saddle consumers with $17 billion in higher car care costs over ten years.(1)
    "California consumers should not be held captive by greedy auto manufacturers and dealers," she said. "When 70 percent of consumers choose to go to independent repair shops after their warranties expire, that sends a strong message that we need to preserve competition in car repairs."
    CARS is among more than 25 consumer, small business and automotive aftermarket groups comprising the California Consumer Choice coalition working to pass SB 1146, a consumer protection bill to reform OBD rules and preserve competition for the consumer's car care dollar.
    Other coalition members include: Consumer Federation of California, the Auto Club of Southern California, California State Automobile Association, California Automotive Task Force and Small Business of America.
    "It's time to put California consumers, not car makers, back in the driver's seat of their own cars," said Howard Owens, executive director, Consumer Federation of California, who also spoke at the morning rally.
    Following the demonstration, which featured a team of tow trucks circling the area with lights flashing and pulling disabled late model cars, activists distributed educational flyers to show attendees.
    The flyers included background on the OBD issue and the SB 1146 Consumer Choice Bill, as well as the 1999 "California Lemon Index" -- CARS and the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG)'s annual ranking of how well (or how poorly) individual car companies handle consumer complaints about defective cars.
    The groups urged showgoers to contact State lawmakers and Governor Davis and urge them to support SB 1146.
    OBD systems, which became standard on all new cars and trucks in 1996, control and monitor all emissions-related parts and components, triggering the "check engine" light on the dashboard if a problem is detected.
    A provision in California's OBD rules allows car makers to deny independent repair shops and parts makers fair access to the computer interface information and tools needed to service and produce compatible parts for late model vehicles -- information they make readily available to their own franchised dealers.
    "Regulations that ensure properly-functioning vehicle emissions systems are important to California's efforts to achieve better air quality -- a goal we all support -- but the problem is in the fine print. The Consumer Choice Bill, SB 1146, is aimed specifically at reforming the provisions in OBD rules that are anti-competitive, anti-consumer and anti-environment," said Jim O'Neill, owner of Chino Auto Tech, an independent full-service repair shop, whose business -- along with thousands of others across the state -- is at risk if SB 1146 is not enacted.
    Senate Bill 1146 (authored by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco), received strong bi-partisan support in the California State Senate, where it passed by an overwhelming 34-6 vote before being sent to the Assembly, where it will be heard in the current session.
    California Consumer Choice has collected petitions across the state with signatures of thousands of SB 1146 supporters which the group plans to deliver to members of the Assembly in the coming weeks.
    The organization also has a toll-free line -- 1-800-CCC-AUTO (1-800-222-2886) and a website (www.cccauto.org) for consumers to learn more about how OBD affects them, and what they can do to help protect their right to choose who will work on their vehicles.

    (1) Economic Impacts of On Board Diagnostic Regulations (OBD II),
    Spectrum Economics, Feb. 11, 1999.