Back in 2018, a trade group that represents John Deere promised farmers that it would help them prevent lawmakers from passing repair regulations that would make tractor repair next to impossible via software locks that would make it impossible for farmers to repair their equipment at home. Instead, those farmers would have to go to John Deere-certified dealerships to perform even the simplest of repairs.
Basically, Deere was promising that the services it was providing would do some of the work of the laws, so there was no point in actually passing those laws. But Deere never had any plans to make repairs easier. It’s been three years. Deere got what it wanted. The farmers haven’t.
This investigation comes from Jason Koebler and Matthew Gault at Motherboard on Vice, who did incredible work tracking down this story. I’ll excerpt a little bit here, but you’ll have to go read the full story, because it’s a wild one:
U.S. PIRG Right to Repair advocate Kevin O’Reilly published a report Thursday that claims dealers and manufacturers have not held up their end of the bargain, and that it is still extremely difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to get diagnostic software, tools, or parts from dealers as was promised. Posing as a customer, O’Reilly called 12 John Deere dealerships in six states: “Of those, 11 told me that they don’t sell diagnostic software and the last one gave me an email of someone to ask for the tools. I sent an email two days ago and haven’t heard anything back.” Motherboard called nine dealerships in seven states and was told by representatives there that the things promised by manufacturers are not available. We tried three in California; two said no immediately, a third offered to help. “We don’t sell those parts to the public,” one said. “You have to be a licensed dealer, we’re not allowed to sell them to anyone,” another said.
Kerry Sheehan, iFixit’s head of US policy, points out that currently, the “only John Deere repair tools we can find” are these children’s toys.
It’s a chaotic story, one that Koebler and Gault deserve recognition for. You’re not going to regret spending your next half hour on this one.