State Auto Shops Unhappy With 'BMW Bill'

Calif. Senate Bill 570 Gives Carmaker Rights To Security Info On Keys

Automaker BMW claims it builds the "Ultimate Driving Machine," but independent auto shops say the company is trying to become the ultimate monopoly.

A recent headline from a Modesto Bee editorial read "BMW has keys to Capitol?" after the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 570.

"It's called a monopoly, it's what many laws are trying to prevent and they are trying to re-institutionalize a monopoly," said Randy Begin, a master mechanic with two independent automotive shops in San Diego.

What SB-570 does is give BMW the exclusive right to customer security information embedded in its electronic keys. The problem for independent garages is that embedded information also affects other parts in BMW vehicles.

"Control units, which essentially monitor many of the functions in the car, also share this embedded information, so if a control unit needs to be replaced, we can't get them," said Dave Gilbert, the service manager for German Motors in Pacific Beach.

In 2006, the state Legislature passed a law that evened the playing field between independent garages and dealerships when it came to this information.

"This just opens the door -- opens the door to other manufacturers who will say, 'Well, BMW got this,'" Begin said.

Gilbert worries customers, at least when it comes to the security devices, will head elsewhere.

"It's just better to go to the dealer because it will take us out of the loop completely," said Gilbert.

The bill was authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez of West Covina and was part of hundreds of bills that were hurried out of the legislature before they recessed.

Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign it.

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