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A little education can save a lot of complaining

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

It's easy to be cynical about this, but consumer education could ease the sting of tougher regulations that seem to be in the works for auto lenders and dealers.

"Compliance and education are the culture in our dealership. It has to be instilled," said Todd Snell, CEO of Snell Motors Inc. (Buick-Cadillac-GMC) in Mankato, Minn. Snell also is a director of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

"On our Web site, we've got 'Auto Financing 101,' '' he said at the American Financial Services Association Vehicle Finance Conference in Orlando last month. He wasn't kidding. The Snell Motors site has an "Auto Financing 101" tab.

The link leads to a Web site belonging to Americans Well-informed on Automobile Retailing Economics. AWARE is sponsored by AFSA, NADA, the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers and the American International Automobile Dealers Association.

You could be cynical and argue those groups are mostly interested in nipping tougher regulations in the bud. But education also could head off consumer complaints that may strike people in the auto industry as silly, but which federal regulators take seriously.

Look at complaints submitted to last year's Federal Trade Commission public roundtables sometime. Some people forget they have to pay off negative equity on their trade-in. Some people don't realize a poor credit score means a bigger down payment. The list goes on and on.

If consumer education takes just some of those complaints out of the system, isn't it worth it?

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