The writer is also chairman of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.
To the Editor:
We have just gone through some of the most tumultuous times in auto history. We witnessed the unthinkable with General Motors and Chrysler. We watched manufacturers cast aside dealerships like rotting fruit. We witnessed government intervention into private industry like that in a socialist nation.
We auto dealers have three major things to worry about and fix, over the next couple of decades, all of which threaten the automobile franchise system.
1. The precedents set by the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies: I'm afraid those bankruptcies are riddled with new case law that will be parsed, twisted and reformed to be used against dealers in the future. They say it is difficult to change bankruptcy law. Car dealers love a difficult challenge. There is no better time to work on change than now while the wounds are fresh.
2. Factory-owned retail outlets: Am I the only one worried about Tesla? The auto industry was built on the franchise system. Manufacturers became global because of the efforts of dealers spending their hard-earned money branding, marketing and retailing the manufacturers' products. I welcome Tesla as a competitor but am worried that the factory-owned retail outlet model will create a problem. If it requires a license plate, it should go through a franchised dealer -- period.
3. The burdensome tax that will be thrown on the backs of all businesses: In Maryland, the Transportation Trust Fund is funded mainly by the auto excise tax and gasoline tax. As corporate average fuel economy standards become more stringent and alternative-fuel and electric vehicles become more prevalent, the tax collected on gasoline is not going to increase. So where is the money going to come from for such funds? You guessed it: us and our customers.
This is a plea for auto dealers to get involved in state associations, NADA, AIADA and any other association that protects dealers' interests.
You can make a difference.