By Ed Salamy, Executive Director
When the ABPA announced our opposition to the recently introduced legislation that would regulate auto body parts use in Maryland (Maryland House Bill 1258) we knew that not everyone in the industry would agree with our stance. There are even those within our industry who came out in support of the bill, perhaps, in part, because it would have benefitted their organization.
The good news is that, on March 18, the bill was voted down in subcommittee by a margin of 5-2. But the debate over the measure served to bring out strong opinions on both sides of the aftermarket parts issue, as well as exposing some more nuanced disagreements about the regulation of collision parts.
A vocal supporter of HB 1258 was Jack Gillis of CAPA, as well he might – the language of the bill practically specified CAPA as the only acceptable certification organization for aftermarket parts. Jack testified in person in favor of the bill, and followed that with a letter in support of the bill to Richard Impallaria, the Maryland legislator who sponsored HB 1258.
Also testifying in support of the bill were Executive Director Jordan Hendler and President Mark Schaech of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association (WMABA). It never ceases to amaze me when people in the body shop industry oppose the use of aftermarket parts. Without aftermarket parts there would be many more “totals” by insurance adjusters, thus denying the shops work.
As LKQ government affairs representative Ray Colas wrote, in criticizing WMABA’s support of the Maryland bill, “… In terms of total loss calculation, we keep vehicles on the road. We allow them [body shops] to repair vehicles, because we keep it below that threshold.”
Looking at the big picture, I can’t help but see the danger legislation like HB 1258 presents for the rights of consumers, as well as the threat posed to the aftermarket parts industry. It is difficult to reconcile the conflicting positions that were being tossed about.
I think we all agree that limiting body shops to using only OEM parts, even for a two-year period, is restraint of trade that benefits only the automobile manufacturers, at the expense of consumer and insurance companies who must pay higher costs for repairs.
But how is that different from restricting consumer choice by narrowing the “approved” list of aftermarket parts to those that can only be verified by a single certification organization? If passed, the Maryland bill would have continued to keep a tight rein on what parts could be used by constraining the certification process, and keep non-certified parts out of the picture entirely.
In a well-reasoned letter to delegate Impallaria, Bob Frayer of NSF International expressed opposition to the bill, citing “specific proscriptions that while well intended, may not ensure a fair, open and balanced standards development process” and “would potentially stifle innovation” in the parts industry.
The ABPA and the entire aftermarket parts industry is all about freedom of choice. We should not stray from this position by artificially limiting a consumer’s choice. The ultimate test is providing assurance to consumers that the parts used to repair their vehicles are safe and will deliver performance that is functionally equivalent to OEM parts.
In Maryland, HB 1258 has gone down to defeat. But this is not the last challenge we will face as an industry. We must remain vigilant in our own states and on a national level to make sure consumers continue to enjoy freedom of choice when it comes to the repair of their vehicles.