Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for having us here today.
I'll discuss our opinion of Bill C-273 a little, but will talk a bit more about the CASIS itself and why we view the voluntary solution as being the best approach for our industry at this time and moving forward.
Since 1926, CVMA has represented Canada's leading automobile manufacturers and sellers across Canada. Today our members include Chrysler, Ford, GM, and Navistar, who collectively have over 40 Canadian vehicle parts, manufacturing, head office, sales, and distribution facilities, over 1,000 dealers across Canada, and significant research and development facilities and programs in Canada. Most importantly, they directly support about 75,000 Canadian employees and retirees and additional hundreds of thousands of families through their extended supply chain across the country.
The issue of right to repair has had a difficult history in our industry and our association. Historically, we have always been advised by our members to remove ourselves from discussion on the subject because of concerns over impropriety under the Competition Act, something we always take very seriously. Furthermore, some of our member companies have historically provided the information being requested on this issue, while others did not. There was never a consensus on an approach—something that, in an association, is critical.
While everyone shared the joint concern over the necessity to protect their own corporate intellectual property as well as the rights of their franchise dealers, at the same time it was recognized that over 65% of all vehicle service and repair was being done through independent repair shops.
Given this background, September 29 marked an important date for our association and for our industry as a whole. As you have heard from the co-presenters so far, the announcement of the CASIS signalled the end of roughly six months of intense negotiations on the industry-led solution that results in all auto makers in Canada providing Canadian independent service and repair providers access to emission- and non-emission-related service information, diagnostic tools, and training information by no later than May 1, 2010. This was delivered as promised to the minister and to each of you in our original letter of intent dated May 1, 2009.
While we are now focused on the implementation of the CASIS, we must consider why we are here today and why we are confident that CASIS is the right solution for our industry.
Firstly, Mr. Masse, you are to be congratulated for your efforts in promoting the concerns and interests of Canadian consumers. It was the original purpose of Bill C-273, as you pointed out, to provide increased information, so that consumers had increased choice in auto repair in Canada. The industry itself used this as the basis for the development of CASIS. It was also the legislation, along with Mr. Clement's writing to all of our member companies and associations requesting an industry-led solution, that led us here today. Without both of these actions, we would not be focused on implementing the agreement as the industry-led solution to this challenge today.
Aside from the similarities of intent, however, we saw several challenges with the draft bill, and we saw an opportunity, with the minister's direction and the support of many in this committee and other members of Parliament, to negotiate and implement a voluntary solution.
Based on our members' and industry's strong history of pragmatism in designing and implementing industry-led agreements, we firmly believed that in this instance an industry-led solution could be successfully developed to accomplish a shared, desired outcome, while at the same time avoiding possible legal challenges, to the benefit of the industry and Canadian consumers.
We have included for your information a long list of the industry's voluntary actions over the last couple of decades. They cover a wide range of issues, including vehicle safety, vehicle emissions, fuel efficiency, and general consumer, environmental, and industry issues. These actions were typically implemented to either take the place of regulations or legislation or as a stop-gap measure to assist governments while regulations were being developed.
For example, in response to a 1989 letter from the Minister of Transport, manufacturers voluntarily began installing airbags in Canadian vehicles on the same timetable as in the U.S., in the absence of any Canadian regulatory framework.
Another example of consumer protections is from the early 1990s, when vehicle manufacturers, the Ontario government, and consumer groups established an Ontario motor vehicle arbitration plan, or OMVAP, to provide a fast, free arbitration program for consumers who felt that their new vehicle warranties were not being honoured. This program negated the need for provincial “lemon laws”, which are popular but very problematic in the U.S. Due to its success, OMVAP evolved into a nation-wide program called CAMVAP, which has the support of all governments across the country.
We have also created industry-only agreements similar to this one, such as the national automobile dealer arbitration program, or NADAP, under which the industry—manufacturers and dealers together—can independently settle disputes regarding dealer franchise issues.
Regardless of the structure of the arrangement, our history in this regard has always been that through a constructive partnership and cooperation we can effectively address public policy goals together through industry-led agreements. In every instance, our members and our sector as a whole have either met or exceeded the commitments made and agreed to.
But let's go back to CASIS. In the U.S., the auto industry went through a similar process by creating an industry-led solution to the challenge of right to repair through the establishment of NASTF, as you've already heard. The history with NASTF is similar to the history with previous Canadian industry-led solutions. It has successfully created a spirit of cooperation and partnership between OEMs and the aftermarket that has provided independent service and repair shops with the information they require to fix vehicles, while allowing OEMs to protect their intellectual property rights and the rights of their franchise dealers. This is why, when crafting the CASIS, NASTF was the primary model: we knew it would work.
Now that CASIS is signed, we are aggressively working on the implementation of the agreement, with a target date, as mentioned, of May 1, 2010, for full implementation by all auto manufacturers across Canada.
Part of this implementation will include clarifying the intentions of the parties to the agreement, should questions arise. One specific issue that was brought to our attention after the signing of the CASIS was the use of the term “engine calibrations”. Due to the language borrowed from the NASTF agreement, at first glance it appears that engine calibrations are excluded from the provisions under the agreement; however, it was only our intent to protect intellectual property of the OEMs and not to restrict access to the information actually necessary to fix vehicles. To resolve this misunderstanding, the CASIS task force has already issued an interpretation guideline, which has fully clarified the issue to the satisfaction of all groups. A copy of this guideline has also been given to you in your information package, for your reference.
However, the details aren't what's really important. What's important to note with this guideline is that an industry-led solution such as the CASIS has a significant advantage over other processes in being able to quickly address concerns that arise from the industry, to the mutual benefit and satisfaction of all parties. The CASIS provides this framework of understanding and intent, which can provide us flexibility moving forward, if other issues and concerns arise within the industry.
The members of the CBMA are fully supportive of the CASIS and its content and have confirmed, in a letter to the Minister of Industry, their intention to abide by the terms and conditions spelled out in the agreement. Again a copy of these letters has been submitted to the committee for your information.
Our members have a successful history in using agreements such as the CASIS and, like other manufacturers operating in Canada, have committed themselves to ensuring that this agreement is a success. In light of the CASIS, our positive history of voluntary agreements, and the progress of the industry since the current legislation was referred to this committee, the CBMA, on behalf of its members, is recommending that the agreement be given the opportunity it deserves to succeed and that Bill C-273 not proceed any further.
Thank you again for the invitation to be here. I look forward to the discussion.