CAMPAIGNS: AA applies the brakes to OBD - European Public Affairs.

On-board diagnostic (OBD) equipment electronically monitors a car’s engine and emissions-related components and provides a simple way to identify faults.

On-board diagnostic (OBD) equipment electronically monitors a car’s

engine and emissions-related components and provides a simple way to

identify faults.

All new cars in Britain will have to be fitted with OBDs in three years’

time. Under draft EU proposals issued in November 1996 only franchised

dealers would have been given access to OBD information. This would

limit the AA’s role to towing cars to franchised garages, while

independent garages and individual motorists would be unable to carry

out repairs.


To lobby the EU for amendments to the draft legislation that would give

open access to OBD information. To keep the media informed about

developments as part of a public awareness drive about potential price



In the February issue of the AA members’ magazine, AA director of policy

John Dawson raised the OBD issue and encouraged members to write to

their MEP to express their concern. The AA also wrote to all Euro MPs in

the UK.

The AA is a member of the Alliance Internationale de Tourisme, the

governing body for motoring, touring and cycling clubs throughout the

world, which has an office in Brussels.

David Ward is director general of the European Bureau of the AIT and FIA

(Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) in Brussels and he

coordinated the European lobbying campaign. This included preparing an

easy-to-understand guide contrasting the proposed European legislation

with that in the US, arranging meetings with appropriate committees,

helping member clubs organise meetings and events, and encouraging them

to write to MEPs.

Alongside the lobbying, the AA ran a media campaign. A release was

issued on 3 March warning that British motorists could face higher car

maintenance costs. John Dawson and AA chief engineer, David Lang, were

put forward as chief spokesmen, supported by the PR team in Basingstoke

and seven regional media relations officers.


The amendments proposed by the AA giving open access to OBD information

were adopted by the European Parliament in the first reading of the


’We hope the influence of the PR campaign in getting the amendments was

considerable,’ says AA group PR manager Barry Walsh. ’We were fortunate

that the parliament accepted a lot of our arguments that a closed system

was very dangerous because it allowed manufacturers to have a

quasi-monopoly in vehicle repair,’ says Ward.

Media coverage following the release of 3 March was extensive. This

included a five minute live interview on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours,

interviews on regional TV stations including Meridian, numerous

interviews on regional radio stations such as BBC Southern Counties and

BBC Thames Valley FM, a long news piece in the Daily Telegraph, articles

in motoring magazines including Auto Express and Autocar, and in

regional newspapers across the country.

Surprisingly, the release of 10 April announcing the amendments in the

first reading was less successful, only attracting a few regional radio

interviews. ’Perhaps this is because the media is waiting for the second

reading which will be the real breakthrough because it will be

confirmation that the legislation is going ahead,’ comments AA press

officer Rebecca Rees.

Parliament is only part of the decision-making process and the proposals

are now before the European Council, which is currently being


The second reading in parliament is expected to be in autumn, and the AA

and other motoring clubs will press on with their campaign until

legislation goes through.


In the face of the relentless march of new technology, the AA waged a

well co-ordinated battle at a European level in conjunction with other

interested parties at a European level and appealed effectively to

public opinion at domestic level. However, this was only the first

battle in what could be a hard-fought war.

Client: AA Public Policy

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: On-Board


Timescale: February 1997 - ongoing

Cost: Undisclosed

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