Washington - The National Automobile Dealers Association has asked manufacturers who have a stake in dealerships to set up a system for handling complaints from independent dealers.
NADA has received calls from members who are concerned the factories will favor the dealerships they own. 'When you have franchised dealers competing with a factory-owned store, there is an inherent feeling of unfair play,' said Jim Willingham, NADA chairman and owner of Boulevard Automotive Group in Long Beach, Calif.
The NADA board of directors last week voted to request a dispute-resolution process that would include fielding, investigating and resolving complaints. Willingham has discussed the matter with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors - the two factories seeking joint ventures with dealers - and the companies seem open to the idea, he said.
Even if Ford and GM fail to set up a process for handling complaints, NADA is monitoring the joint ventures. The board has said it would 'take whatever actions are necessary to accomplish this mission.' Willingham said that means contributing to legal defense funds for dealers who have grounds to sue.
But Willingham thinks lawsuits will not be necessary. He believes Ford and GM treat independent dealers fairly. Said Willingham: 'They have promised to do that, and I believe they mean it.'