Wesley Luther, a certified world-class technician at VIP Tires and Service in Brewer, sits in a vehicle and uses a scan tool to review diagnostic data. His company backed Question 4 on Maine's 2023 ballot, which would provide a "right to repair." Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Maine voters overwhelmingly backed a vehicle “right to repair” in Tuesday’s election, siding with independent garages and generic parts manufacturers over big automakers.

The yes side of Question 4 had 81 percent of votes to 19 percent for the no side when the Bangor Daily News and Decision Desk HQ called the race at 9:18 p.m. Tuesday.

It made Maine the second state to make such a change after Massachusetts easily passed a nearly identical law in 2020. Question 4 will require automakers to standardize the electronic on-board diagnostic systems that have become prevalent in the industry and make proprietary information and parts accessible to independent garages and vehicle owners.

Supporters of Question 4 spent $4.7 million to pass the law, with virtually all of that money coming from companies that stand to benefit from the shift, led by a trade group that represents aftermarket firms and companies including Autozone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Advance Auto Parts and the parent of NAPA Auto Parts.

“Automakers are trying to monopolize the market on car and truck repairs but their customers, the voters, are acting overwhelmingly to put the brakes on them,” Tommy Hickey, executive director of the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee that supported Question 4, said in a statement.

The auto industry opposed the shift, calling it unconstitutional. A lawsuit filed in Massachusetts kept the law there on hold until June, when state officials implemented it despite the ongoing court case. A similar lawsuit here could keep the law in limbo.

John Bozzella, president and CEO of Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which opposed Question 4, said Tuesday night the Legislature should “consider legislation to codify the national cooperation agreement that already exists” between independent shops and automakers.

Subaru and Kia have disabled electronic systems in new vehicles in Massachusetts after the state began enforcing the law, Wired has reported. A judge in the case there also said the law may be “unattainable” and could harm the auto industry, according to the Boston Globe.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...