WATERTOWN, Mass — EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a second statement issued by Subaru of America dated March 1, 2022.
It’s not uncommon to see workers repairing a Subaru car or SUV inside Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown; owner Bob Lane said it’s the most popular car they service. But lately, Lane said he’s heard complaints about Subaru disabling certain systems in their new vehicles.
“It’s all about the data,” Lane said.
Subaru of America tells Boston 25 the company disabled some of it’s in-car wireless telematics in 2022 vehicles sold in Massachusetts. As originally reported by the Associated Press the move by Subaru stems from the passage of the 2020 Right to Repair law, which was overwhelmingly approved by Massachusetts voters. The law says car manufacturers must give consumers access to a vehicles’ telematics data, which is the diagnostic information collected over a wireless connection. According to the AP, the law requires automakers to create an “open standard for sharing mechanical data.”
“Rather than becoming compliant, they’re disabling the telematics of the car,” Lane said. “If that stuff is getting disabled, that’s just not safe and it’s not right.”
Subaru of America spokesperson Dominick Infante said the change “does not affect the safety of Subaru vehicles.”
“As a result of the new Massachusetts Data Law, Subaru had to stop offering its telematics product to Massachusetts residents purchasing new MY 2022 Subaru vehicles. This does not affect the safety of Subaru vehicles. Vehicles without telematics continue to meet or exceed all government safety standards, and they maintain all their IIHS and NHTSA safety ratings,” Infante said in an Mar. 1 email to Boston 25.
“This decision affects only the optional Subaru STARLINK telematics services. Subaru stopped offering those services not to comply with the law—compliance with the law at this time is impossible for any automaker—but rather to avoid violating it. The reason is simple: the new law requires vehicles with telematics systems to transmit vehicle data directly to a platform to be operated by a yet to be identified third party. That third-party platform does not exist today, and it will not exist any time soon. Until the platform is created—and until Subaru can redesign its telematics system to communicate securely with that platform—we felt that this was our only option,” Infante said.
Tommy Hickey, director of the Right to Repair Coalition, said this is a stall tactic by car manufacturers to delay the implementation of the law.
“What they’ve shown us time and time again is that profits are more important to them than consumers and getting cars fixed in an open repair market,” Hickey said. “People should be upset. This is something that Massachusetts consumers voted for, they wanted their repair data, they wanted to take their car where they chose, and car manufacturers are sticking their thumbs at them and saying, ‘No. We will not do that. We would rather not sell you the car with all of [these] capabilities.”
Infante said Subaru customers in Massachusetts can continue to use the radio, navigation, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and many other vehicle features.
“To be clear, this is not a repair issue. Independent repair facilities already have all the information they need to repair Subaru vehicles, and Subaru retailers do not get diagnostic repair data from the telematics system. Unfortunately, the impossibility of complying with this new law is a disservice to both our retailers and our customers,” Infante said.
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