However bad car dealers sometimes think they have it in the United States, they ought to look at how bad it could get in Europe after new retailing rules take effect this fall.
Imagine one bureaucrat in Brussels having the power to change the rules and threaten most dealers' territories and investment.
The European Union's new distribution rules are portrayed as a declaration of independence for dealers. And, in fact, the share prices of most publicly traded retail giants in England have soared since European Union Competition Commissioner Mario Monti proposed the new standards for "block exemption" in February.
That's the exemption for automakers and their distribution networks from many of the restrictions placed on retailers of other goods. It recognizes that cars, which need stable dealers for service, are different from light bulbs.
Well, starting Oct. 1, European dealers theoretically will get new rights against the factory. Monti's new rules let dealers seek customers in the territories of other dealers selling the same brand. And they'll have the right to open sales outlets anywhere in the European Union.
But few can afford to use those rights. And the existing dealers have to worry about some big group setting up business next door and selling the same brand of car.
A big majority of Europe's auto retailers face hardships as a result of the rule changes. Traditional dealers could be crushed.
The rules won't allow the automakers to see that sales and service remain at the same dealership.
That means independent repair shops can compete with dealers' back shop operations. The factories won't be able to control how their cars are serviced, even under warranty.
Only big dealership groups are expected to expand - building branches in other countries, moving into areas from which they had been banned and knocking out existing smaller dealers by advertising them to death.
Carmakers won't be able to protect smaller retailers.
Big groups will grow bigger. Many small dealers will disappear.
How happy are dealers about the new block exemption?
Carmakers say that smaller retailers have stopped investing in their stores because of uncertainty about the future.
The whole operation of the franchise system seems to be at the whim of one bureaucrat in Europe.
Luckily, we have franchise laws and a feeling of franchise protection all over the United States.