Calif. ballot proposal misses cut for November vote

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

A California consumer advocacy group’s ballot initiative that would have outlawed dealer reserve in the state -- part of a wider backlash against dealer reserve as a “hidden extra charge” -- won’t make it on the November ballot this year.

“We decided to hold off,” Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety in Sacramento, Calif., said in a phone interview Tuesday. She didn’t rule out taking another run at putting the proposal before voters after this year.

CARS had its work cut out for it. The organization filed notice in October 2013 that it would pursue the ballot initiative, but it was an expensive and ambitious undertaking. Shahan had estimated it might cost $1.5 million or more to gather the 500,000 valid signatures needed to get the ballot initiative on the November ballot. The group never hired the professional signature-gatherers that are standard in California referendum initiatives.

Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association in Sacramento, said in a phone interview last week that his group took the ballot proposal seriously, but he said it never got close to being included on the ballot.

The consumer group floated different versions of the proposal. The all-inclusive version also would have made it illegal for dealerships to sell cars that are subject to a recall without first performing the recall work. Now, Shahan said, the part of the proposal that would require recall repairs be finished before a vehicle is sold is at the top of the group’s agenda.

With record numbers of recalls nationwide this year, dealer reserve is off the political front burner in California. But for how long?

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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