A New York dealer’s worst fear goes beyond a ban on soda

Automotive News | September 17, 2012 - 3:35 pm EST

What do soda pop and car dealers possibly have in common?

If they’re in or near New York City, a potential foe: Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A New York-area dealer recently told me he worries that one day his dealerships might become obsolete. He said the mayor favors public transportation and the Zipcar car-sharing service-- threats to individual vehicle ownership.

The mayor is a noted environmentalist who in 2010 pushed for the city to use Zipcars instead of costly government-owned sedans. Those Zipcars were mostly hybrids. The city restricted the number that could be used during rush hour to avoid adding to congestion, another of Bloomberg’s pet peeves.

The dealer said if demand for individually owned cars declines enough due to an increase in Zipcars and public transportation use in New York, it not only fits with the mayor’s environmental agenda, but the city could gain more real estate by buying defunct car dealership lots.

This dealer is worried about his future. Still, his fear seemed unfounded because it would require an unprecedented level of government influence over individual decisions and rights.

But then last week the New York City Board of Health voted into law Bloomberg’s latest anti-obesity initiative: restricting the sale of sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces in any of the 24,000 restaurants, movie theaters, fast-food joints and other food service establishments the city regulates.

In 2003, Bloomberg secured a city ban on smoking in all restaurants and bars. Last year, the city extended the ban to parks, beaches, marinas and pedestrian plazas, including Times Square.

Right or wrong, these bans are a form of social engineering. And if pursued further into the realm of transportation, it makes this dealer’s fears a real danger down the road.

Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive NewsJamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News

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