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EGEA semi-annual General Assembly in Brussels on October 11, 2017

EGEA, European Garage Equipment Association–in which AICA serves as the Italian member -, held its semi-annual General Assembly on October 11 in Brussels, on behalf of a large number of European manufacturers.  

As works began the Chairman, Jaume Berenguer from AFIBA Spain, welcomed all members and proceeded to highlight the special meeting held the day before by the Board of Directors along with Working Group Leaders, aimed at streamlining operations and working as closely as possible with all associated companies.

The financial status of the Association was the second topic to be addressed; the general trend for the year 2017-2018 was quite in line with forecasts. As the Secretary General Eleonore Van Haute explained, a particularly relevant news centred around the recent issuing of the “EGEA Label”, a quality mark to be applied on gas R1234y recharging stations, scheduled for the beginning of 2018. Next, Van Houte brought the assembly’s attention on the Association’s communication activities including the presentation of EGEA’s new user-friendly website, new document archive as well as issuing regular bulletins for the members.   

Next up, and a welcome guest, Walter Nissler of UNECE’s Sustainable Transport Division, who detailed the work of his department in the field of transport and mobility. UNECE’s main focus is, above all, in fields such as environmental protection, safety, alternative fuels and electric vehicle inspections, all topics of great interest for the car repair and maintenance world, reason why Nissler invited EGEA to take part in the activities of UNECE’s 29th Working Group. Following his intervention, the Assembly decided to monitor the progress of the work and evaluate the opportunity to participation whenever possible.

This was followed by a close look at the activities performed by each national member of the association: among the main topics of interest were the intention to create a "European" market statistics system, a focus of safety around garage lifts, restarting exhaust emission analysis in countries such as Germany, where it’s been suspended for a while, new standards for instruments inspection and tools calibration systems and the need to exert pressure on authorities to maintain diagnostic access via the OBD port.

The co-ordinators of the working groups then took the floor and briefly explained the activities. Fausto Manganelli of AICA reported on current activities aimed at promoting safety when working with and around garage lifts, highlighting how PROSAFE, a European co-ordinating body, inspected hundreds of lifts produced by several manufacturers in nine European countries. What emerged was a widespread lack of safety requirements and non-compliance with CE markings with the consequent need to bring the issue to the attention of supervising authorities.

A further hot topic related to the issue of access to technical data presented by AICA’s Elvis Colla who spoke of the TRL study (Technology Readiness Level), funded by the European Commission which is still to clear the field of concerns previously manifested, and the need to extend inspections to electronic safety devices.

Looking at tire equipment, Massimo Brunamonti of AICA, in substitution of the Association’s chairman who could not be present, briefly reported on the draft European standard for the safety of tire changers, now completed and approved in Italy and currently being translated pending its final presentation to the CEN (European Committee for Standardization).

The following speaker, Jordi Brunet of AFIBA, illustrated the current developments on the creation of a European standard for suspension tests; the work is progressing rapidly and fruitfully and is expected to produce a preliminary draft soon.

The A/C recharging stations working group is now ready to start issuing the EGEA quality mark for compliant models, as explained by Alessandro Carluccio of AICA, thus brilliantly completing its long-term assignment.

Finally, Marco Le Brun, also from AICA, took the floor and spoke on the, long awaited, common European protocol for garage equipment, highlighting that the proposals still need clarification and alternative solutions are expected.

Lack of time, unfortunately, prevented the Assembly from tackling a number of other issues, a clear testimony to the extent of the association’s commitment in caring for the sector’s interests.


FIAT blocks OBD access: a death-blow to multi-brand diagnostics?

It seems that car manufacturers are quickly moving to block access to vehicle diagnostics reserving it only for their own authorized dealers and only using their own equipment.

According to recent news, Fiat, on its latest 500L, blocked free access to its OBD port, possible only through an access key.

It's called security gateway, which would make one think of safety for drivers and passenger, when in fact it’s really about business safety for Fiat.

This is how it works: every diagnostic tool accessing the OBD port, will have to go through this gateway that, true, still allows you to read the data from the control unit, both stored and in real time, but when it comes to setting commands as simple as turning off the warning lights, access is then allowed only on condition of obtaining a certificate from Fiat. This certificate can be obtained only on condition that a Fiat diagnostic tool is used, but is also issued to a single operator and for an average limited period of only 24 hours.

This security gateway then, could ultimately end up preventing anyone not working on behalf of Fiat or using Fiat approved tools and spare parts from accessing the vehicle.

One might think that this is still feasible, given that Fiat tools are available to everyone. True, but if every manufacturer follows this idea, independent garages, if they should survive at all, will be forced to purchase a huge number of diagnostic tools, which would prove to be financially unbearable; as a consequence motorists would have to bear an unjustifiable increase in costs totally against any market logic. Just to give an example, if the average cost of a complete professional multi-brand diagnostics system can be estimated between 5,000 and 10,000 euro, in this new scenario an independent garage would have to purchase at least 5 or 6 diagnostic tools from several different manufacturers which would cause a massive rise in costs, not to mention the time and resources necessary for learning to use all these tools and subsequent updates, different and specific in each case.


Free-competition protection in the car repair sector Open letter to the Government

European Institutions are currently engaged in a "trialogue" (Parliament, Commission and Council) over the new regulation that defines new vehicle approval rules. As we know, the legislative process provides for a reading of the draft by all three bodies before a mutually shared formula is agreed upon.

The garage world has its sight set on the current debates, the impact of which is crucial for the entire sector, which is responsible for investments in the region of 200 billion euro every year, employing over three and a half million people.

Not only, talks are drawing the attention of diagnostic equipment manufacturers as well as independent spare parts dealers whose very existence might be jeopardized if free competition, one of the EUs founding principles, is not safeguarded.

Reason why AICA, along with other trade associations such as EGEA, ADIRA, ASSO-RICAMBI, Confartigianato Riparatori and CNA Riparatori, considered it appropriate to send an open letter to the Government and in particular to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and the Minister of Economic Activities, requiring our country to champion this fundamental principle and its inherent value.

The letter states, in part, that "The current European legislation in the automotive sector (BlockExemption and TypeApproval Framework) is consistent with the spirit of the Treaty of Rome. However, the 2014 European Commission's Ricardo-AEA study, revealed a number of shortcomings in terms of free access to vehicle repair and maintenance information (RMI) by independent companies active in the Aftermarket segment, whose dynamic and fundamental role in the Automotive sector has been curtailed.”

To make up for these shortcomings and uphold the consumer’s rights, the entire Italian automotive aftermarket, along with all other European trade associations, demand that European legislators "introduce in the new Type-approval Regulation, rules that clearly define the manufacturers’ obligations in ensuring free access to their vehicle’s RMI."

All the necessary articles and the amendments have already been approved by a large majority of the European Parliament thus acknowledging the need for free competition. It is now up to the European Council, made up of representatives of the 28 Member-States, to support the Parliament's proposals and thus create a regulatory framework that guarantees the citizens’ right to chose.

Therefore, the open letter addresses the Association’s request for "the Italian Government to swiftly and effectively operate in all appropriate institutional bodies and with the most suitable strategy to confirm, as a result of the on-going debate, the regulatory framework created by the European Parliament, and to avoid that the interests of limited groups might change the set course, diverting it from its role as a competition regulator protecting the right of choice embodied by the dense and vital network of thousands and thousands of independent operators active in serving the interests of the average motorist throughout the Country.”

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