On-board diagnostic (OBD) equipment electronically monitors a car’s
engine and emissions-related components and provides a simple way to
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
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 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
Timescale: February 1997 - ongoing