Chicago-area General Motors dealers last week failed to get an April hearing date on their motion for a preliminary injunction against the automaker.
The dealers had hoped to stop GM from implementing its program that requires dealers to pay into a GM-controlled advertising fund.
Last Tuesday, March 30, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Schiller denied the request for a hearing. He ruled that the dealers failed to show an immediate need.
Instead, the judge scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, April 6, to iron out an argument over the discovery process. GM claims the dealers are not providing all the information GM needs to defend itself.
At issue is a program that took effect Thursday, April 1, as part of GM's revamped marketing operation. GM withholds 1 percent of the sticker price on each vehicle it sells to its dealers, creating a fund valued at $500 million nationwide. As of April 1, GM controls the fund and uses the money for regional advertising.
The plan ends GM's long-standing practice of funneling the fees back to regional dealer marketing groups. Under the previous plan, dealer groups used the money for ads in their marketing regions.
Chicago-area Chevrolet dealers have an ad campaign that features Michael Jordan. They and other GM dealers fear that under GM control, regional campaigns would lack the punch of a locally planned campaign. The dealers sued GM to stop the plan from taking effect.
After the dealers brought their suit, GM countersued.
Dealers claim that under the Illinois motor-vehicle franchise law, they cannot be required to participate, at their own expense, in an advertising campaign. The dealers said that by keeping the money, GM violates the franchise law.
GM argues that denying the company the use of the funds violates a manufacturer's rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Illinois attorney general is weighing whether to defend the state franchise laws. Spokeswoman Laurie Corral said last week the attorney general's office had not yet decided whether to get involved.