West Virginia bill aims to ban OTA updates and a lot more

The West Virginia Automobile Dealer's Association (WVADA) wants OEMs to get all the way off its back about, well, seemingly everything. The WVADA confirmed to The Drive that it "helped introduce" bill HB 4560 to the state legislature, 32 pages and more than 14,000 words outlining what West Virginia dealers don't want manufacturers to be able to tell them to do. HB 4560 seemingly covers every aspect of the OEM-dealer relationship, seeking to prevent OEMs from mandating costly facility upgrades more often than dealers want, to prevent OEMs from cutting allocations for reasons dealers aren't happy with, to prevent OEMs from auditing warranty work compensation more than 12 months after work was done, and making sure OEMs pay dealers for the cost of providing loaner vehicles at the dealer's regular rate, and so on.

But one paragraph in the bill is a watershed provision OEMs do not want to let set a precedent: The WVADA wants to eliminate over-the-air updates.

The text from the bill is: "Except for experimental low-volume not-for-retail sale vehicles, [OEMs cannot] cause warranty and recall repair work to be performed by any entity other than a new motor vehicle dealer, including post-sale software and hardware upgrades or changes to vehicle function and features, and accessories for new motor vehicles sold by a licensed new motor vehicle dealer. Provided however, this language shall not include any post-sale software upgrades to the motor vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system."

Seeing as how OTA updates are already the way business is done for every EV manufacturer and startup, how legacy automakers are remaking electronic architectures and software platforms that can handle remote upgrades, and how even partially autonomous vehicles will require OTA updates, this is a big deal. The language also wants to eliminate manufacturers taking reservations for vehicles, or offering demonstrations and test drives. HB 4560 goes so far that it effectively says to automakers, "Anything that involves your vehicles and our customers has to go through us, except software changes to the infotainment system. Otherwise, have our money ready when we say so."

The news of this hit the mainstream when the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) wrote a letter in opposition to the bill and shared it with CleanTechnica. The AAI is the reformed and rebranded Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, representing 21 OEMs as well as some suppliers. Naturally, the organization's stance is that "Many of the proposed changes would benefit dealers but would ultimately impose costs and inconvenience on the citizens of West Virginia," because vehicle owners would need to visit a dealer to have anything done to their vehicles, from software-related recalls to enhancing advanced driver assistance systems, extending EV range by increasing battery capacity, and installing new features in the automaker marketplaces that OEMs expect to add billions to their bottom lines.

Mind you, the AAI is fighting this battle for its own purposes; the consumer benefit is incidental. Three states over, in Massachusetts, the AAI is still pouring a ton of money into the fight against that state's effort to enact right-to-repair laws. In that state, it's the AAI trying to tell consumers, "Anything that involves your vehicle's repair has to go through our dealers. Have our money ready when we say so."

Back in West Virginia, the AAI wants a chance to plead its case to lawmakers before potential bill passage. In the letter, the AAI writes that "its members would appreciate the opportunity to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss these concerns in further detail and answer any questions committee members may have related to HB 4560." Stay tuned.

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