Over automakers' objections, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed into law legislation that dealers in the state say will bolster protections from factory controls, particularly in the areas of dealership renovations and warranty work payments.
The new law also confirms that Tesla Motors will be able to sell its cars directly in New Hampshire.
Pete McNamara, president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association, said the law will keep New Hampshire dealers competitive and prevent costly mandates that have put some local dealers out of business.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said today that its member automakers are disappointed that special-interest legislation won the day in New Hampshire. The alliance sent Hassan a letter on Monday asking her to veto the legislation. She signed the legislation into law on Tuesday.
"The likely end result is that consumers will unfortunately pay more for both vehicles and vehicle repairs," alliance spokesman Dan Gage wrote in an e-mail. The dealers association disputes that consumers will pay more.
Limits on renovations
The New Hampshire law covers several points and includes a "buy local" provision ending manufacturer requirements that dealers use out-of-state contractors to do certain work.
One major provision in the law will limit manufacturers from requiring dealers to renovate their facilities more often than every 15 years.
"How would you feel if you were told that you had to spend millions on a remodeled showroom when you aren't finished paying for the last facility upgrade a few years ago?" Andy Crews, CEO of AutoFair Automotive Group, said in a statement. "This law will hopefully stop the unreasonable and unexpected mandates that come from vehicle manufacturers."
AutoFair, of Manchester, N.H., sells five brands through seven new-vehicle stores plus one used-only store.
The law also spells out a formula for retail parts reimbursement to dealers for warranty jobs. New Hampshire law had required reimbursement at the retail rate, McNamara said, but some automakers have resisted.
The alliance, which has filed lawsuits against Florida and Connecticut laws on warranty reimbursement, could challenge that New Hampshire provision. "Every option is currently on the table," Gage wrote in an e-mail.
McNamara said he is confident that New Hampshire's provision would stand up in court. It copies Maine's law, which has survived a manufacturer lawsuit, he said.
In a move touted by electric vehicle maker Tesla, the law includes a provision to allow manufacturers to sell vehicles directly if no other dealer is selling the same vehicle brand in the state. Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks said the company hadn't faced any legislative challenges or litigation in New Hampshire.
"New Hampshire will be a great market for us as we expand on the East Coast, however we do not have any dates set for opening there at this time," Hendriks wrote in an e-mail.
That provision is more of a clarification than a policy change, McNamara said. New manufacturers without dealers in the state were already allowed to sell directly under a 2000 law.
Said McNamara: "It's crystal clear now."