Early last year a heated debate was instigated by a gentleman who was frustrated by his inability to help his neighbor who was having service and repair issues with his new tractor (“The Next High-Tech Battle in Ag,” Farm Equipment E-Watch, Feb. 10, 2015).
In the article, which first appeared on Wired.com, Feb. 5, 2015, the author, who was the frustrated would-be repairman, said, “Modifications and troubleshooting require diagnostic software that farmers can’t have. Even if a farmer managed to get the right software, calibrations to the tECU (tractor’s engine control unit) sometimes require a factory password. No password, no changes — not without the permission of the manufacturer.”
At the heart of the issue was the question, should someone who pays $200,000 or $300,000 or more for a tractor have the right to access its inner workings, if they want to repair, modify or enhance it in any way they choose?
The author of the article left no doubt where he stood on the issue. “If people want to tinker with it, that’s their right as owners of the damn machines. It’s easy enough to note that tinkering with the tractor you bought voids any warranties and takes [the manufacturer] out of the liability zone if something goes wrong ... ownership means that it’s yours and you can absolutely tinker with it however you want.”
He also took a shot at dealers when he said, “The dealer-repair game is just too lucrative for manufacturers to cede any control back to farmers.”
The Government Relations Committee of the Equipment Dealers Assn. has an opposing view to the right to repair debate. The committee is in the process of developing a policy statement on the issue, but believes the dealer segment must take a stand. According to EDA, at some point over the past 10 years, the issue of right to repair has been debated in at least 10 state legislatures.
Natalie Higgins, vice president of government affairs and general counsel for EDA, told Farm Equipment, “Dealers work hard to keep their customers safe; we think that everyone who services equipment should be required to have the training and expertise to do so safely.
“Furthermore, improper repairs or modifications can void equipment warranties and/or violate applicable safety or environmental laws. These are serious concerns for our industry.”
She also points out that there seems to be a great deal of misinformation surrounding “Right to Repair” legislation. “EDA and other industry leaders are working to provide the public with accurate information; much of the parts and repair information that consumers and third parties want is already available to them either directly from their OEM or from their local dealer.”
Dealers can get more information on the “Right to Repair” issue at EDA’s website.
While the legalities of ownership of software and such are way beyond my pay grade, from a practical standpoint it’s a pretty simple proposition. Tinker all you want, but if you want me to buy or take that tractor in trade, you need to inform me in writing what was done to fix, modify or enhance its performance. That way, I can make an intelligent decision whether I want it or not. If you as the seller can’t or won’t attest to your tinkering, it’s a big “no sale” for me.