Multifranchise dealer Jack Fitzgerald is promoting a bill in the Maryland Legislature that prohibits automakers from withholding benefits such as advertising co-op funds if a dealer advertises vehicle invoice prices.
Except for some consumer advocates, the Rockville, Md., dealer stands alone on the issue. The manufacturers are fighting the bill, and the state dealer association has not taken a position.
Encouraging shoppers to focus on the cheapest price could undermine a vehicle's resale value and hurt brand image, says Chris Martin, a spokesman for American Honda Motor Co.
"Our products are worth more than the price of sheet metal," Martin says. "Our brand has an air of quality and prestige that we would like to protect."
Fitzgerald, 74, says dealers would support the bill if the factories weren't intimidating them.
"The Federal Trade Commission tells consumers to determine the factory invoice price when they are shopping for a car to protect themselves against overpaying," he says. "That's why I put the factory invoice on my Web site."
The invoice price is higher than what the dealer pays. Typically, the manufacturer holds back 2 or 3 percent of a vehicle's invoice or manufacturer's suggested retail price, which is paid to the dealer later.
Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, says the association had nothing to do with the proposal.
"I respect Jack, but it's not our bill," says Kitzmiller.
"I'm not with him on this. Most of the manufacturers have advertising guidelines, and every dealer I have talked to felt it was reasonable for a manufacturer to expect dealers to stick to the rules."