Right to Repair

Voters Overwhelmingly Pass Car Right to Repair Law in Maine

“Maine residents have won the right to control their destiny when it comes to car repairs."
Voters Overwhelmingly Pass Car Right to Repair Law in Maine
Image: Steven Radenmacker via Unsplash

Voters in Maine overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure Tuesday that enshrines the right to repair cars, a major win for consumers and a blow to auto manufacturers who have spent millions lobbying against similar legislation and fighting against it in the courts.

“Question 4,” which enshrines consumers’ data access to car diagnostics for the purposes of repair, passed by a margin of 84.3-15.7 in Tuesday’s election with 94 percent of the votes tallied. The yes/no question was simple: “Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities?” 

Maine’s vote shows yet again that right to repair in all of its forms is overwhelmingly popular with consumers, and that they are not swayed by fear mongering campaigns from manufacturers. A similar measure in 2020 passed in Massachusetts with 75 percent support from voters. 

In Massachusetts, car manufacturers spent tens of millions of dollars on ads that said the law would be used by stalkers and hackers if it was passed. Auto manufacturers have been engaged in a three-year lawsuit there to prevent the law from going into effect. Proponents of the law say it is necessary because car manufacturers are moving toward systems where car diagnostics can only be read wirelessly by people who are authorized by the manufacturer to do so; on cars up to now, such data has been accessible through a wired port underneath the car’s steering wheel.

“Maine residents have won the right to control their destiny when it comes to car repairs,” Tommy Hickey, director of the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Coalition, told 404 Media. “There’s a new technology in cars, they’ve become computers on wheels, and with this law owners in Maine will be the gatekeepers of that information.” Hickey also worked on the Massachusetts law in 2020.

Hickey said that after getting crushed in Massachusetts, auto manufacturers didn’t lobby as hard against the Maine law as they did in Massachusetts: “They didn’t spend nearly as much money,” he said. “When you spend $30 million and you lose 75 percent of the vote, I think the writing is on the wall.”

Nathan Proctor, head of consumer rights group USPIRG’s right to repair project, told 404 Media that “right to Repair is incredibly popular because it’s common sense—at least to those who aren’t manufacturers. Society works best when we are empowered to fix our stuff.”

The Maine law is a big deal not just for people in Maine. In the past, when states have passed legislation like this, manufacturers have functionally had to make this data available in other states. An earlier law passed in Massachusetts became de-facto national legislation after manufacturers signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” in which they agreed to comply with the law throughout the country rather than face slightly varying laws in every state.

The CAR Coalition, which is pushing right to repair legislation throughout the country, told 404 Media that “Maine voters' overwhelming show of support for Question 4 adds momentum to the growing national push for right to repair protections. The CAR Coalition will continue this important fight at the federal level with bipartisan bills like the SMART and REPAIR Acts to ensure every American—no matter where they live—has the right to repair the car they own.”