Positive Response to Consumer Assistance Program Updates
The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) adopted emergency regulations on August 31, 2020, which have increased the state's contribution toward emissions-related repairs under BAR's Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) from a maximum of $500 to $1,200 for eligible consumers, modified the consumer copay structure, and relaxed some vehicle registration-related eligibility requirements. The regulations have allowed more consumers to obtain emissions-related repairs and have increased the opportunity for STAR test-and-repair stations to make more durable repairs.
Earlier this year, Repair Assistance Technical Unit Supervisor Randy Powers reached out to station owners and consumers to ask them about their experience with the program changes.
Armando Borges, owner of Smogs Plus Auto Repair in Inglewood, California, noted that the upfront costs for CAP applicants have decreased substantially under the new regulations. Oscar Sola, a California motorist whose income was reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was worried when his vehicle failed a Smog Check inspection. But after a Smogs Plus representative informed him of CAP, he was relieved to learn that he only had to pay 20% of the diagnostic and repair costs. Ultimately, Sola paid less than $300 for a diagnosis of the problem and the replacement of a malfunctioning catalytic converter. "This was a great experience; it helped me a lot, especially since I depend on my car for work," Sola said.
William Clark, owner of La Mesa Fuels and Auto Repair in La Mesa, California, told Powers that the additional state contributions have allowed him to make Smog Check repairs that previously would have been too costly for CAP participants. One of Clark's customers, Jason Russo, applied for assistance after his Chevrolet Volt failed a Smog Check inspection. Although diagnostic and repair costs exceeded $1,400, Russo's out of pocket expenses were less than $300. "The assistance helped immensely. Had it not been for CAP, I would have had to delay getting my vehicle repaired," Russo said.
Other satisfied consumers shared with Powers that the low upfront diagnostic fees and the increase in assistance motivated them to apply for CAP. Clark and Borges said that their customers have been happy with the program, and both station owners are planning to continue encouraging qualified consumers to apply.