What Congress should enact

Recently in the news is word of a dealer rights bill gaining significant momentum in congress. If passed, this law would strengthen and reinforce the rights of all dealers.

This IS a good thing and definitely needed. However, what it doesn't address -- nor should it in its current form -- are the rules that give manufacturers latitude enough to ignore such laws while in bankruptcy.

I say this from experience, having lost not only my Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge franchises but also my Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and GMC franchises, in two separate locations.

As reflected earlier, GM deserves kudos for doing the right thing -- even in bankruptcy -- by not completely alienating their dealers who are losing their franchises. Chrysler, on the other hand, used bankruptcy to shield themselves from liability and leave 789 dealers hanging in the wind.

Many who did not have other CJD franchises now have parts inventory with a significant reduction of value and special tools that no one -- including active dealers -- need. Then there was the millions of dollars in new inventory that we were forced to sell off to other dealers.

Allowing us to dealer trade them ourselves was a great idea, of course. But Chrysler advised surviving dealers NOT to accept vehicles from terminated dealers outside of the manufacturer's involvement, which required a significant per vehicle "handling fee." Meanwhile, Chrysler's financial arm prevented dealers from taking more than four units from a terminated dealer directly.

Still most of us have found our new footing. Many dealers, myself included, have continued operations as a preowned center, selling the program vehicles that we did before but without the franchise liability. Our bottom line has increased as a result.

But where was our protection? This brings me back to my original point: This new dealer rights bill.

Where's our true protection from the bankruptcy process, where judges can decide whether organizations like Chrysler can act despite the law and without accountability? In addition, part of this legislation will include a forced reinstatement of our franchises. But who wants to be a dealer for a franchise group that clearly doesn't want you?

What should occur is the forced reimbursement of all expenses terminated dealers were faced with, as well as the repurchase of ALL of our parts and special tools, as our original agreement entailed.

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