JIM HENRY

Battling an unknown boogeyman

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.
Fear of the unknown is driving dealership groups that are trying to get exempted from pending consumer protection legislation in Washington. What exactly are dealers afraid of? There's no specific proposal to fight, such as a cap on interest-rate markups or some new disclosure requirement.

"Nobody knows, that's just it," said Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.

It's not an unusual tactic in Washington to keep proposals vague in the early stages of what could be some intense horse trading. Specific proposals only give the other side something to latch onto. Dealers are hoping that before financial reform becomes law, Congress adopts part of the House version of the Wall Street reform bill, which exempts auto dealerships.

The U.S. Senate passed the bill without an exemption for dealers, but at the eleventh hour, the Senate instructed its members who are supposed to reconcile the Senate bill with the House version to accept the House exemption for dealers.

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