Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January 2016 SDADA Column

I am listening to an Federal Trade Commission "Auto Regulation Workshop" as I write this column. This is a rather optimistic title for this "witch hunt".

The FTC has, in the past, shown they supported manufacturer direct selling. Of course this was only the personal opinion of staff - not an official position. 

So the FTC now conducts a "kangaroo court" with panels stacked against the dealers advocating for a demolition of the franchise system (and State Franchise Laws) and endorsing direct selling by manufacturers. 

They are featuring a parade of panelists that are testifying about how the dealers are getting rich ( "average dealership profits of over $1 million/year"), running monopolies within their local markets, adding cost as a middleman and generally doing all of this at the expense of both the manufacturer and the consumer.

The ultimate irony is that the general theme of the panelists is regulation (in the form of State Franchise Laws) is inefficient and adds cost to the distribution system. There has never been an administration that has introduced more regulations (at great cost to our nation's businesses) in the history of our country. But it is only these State Franchise Laws that add costs - none of the federal regulations are guilty of such a travesty!

We can expect the "findings" of this sham to be marched out as evidence that the franchise system is broken and that State Franchise Laws should be sacked. Elon Musk is smiling all the way to the bank.

This is just another attack by the current administration and its legion of regulators who are bitter about the automobile dealers' success in earning a carve out of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. The attacks by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau over the past five years are similarly motivated.

I think it is appropriate to end this discussion with a reminder of the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which states that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people. 

That is the Federal Trade Commission you hear in that background muttering "Whatever!". 

Multi-Tier Pricing Strikes Again

You've probably seen the story about Napleton Automotive Group alleging FCA US offered dealers large sums of money to report unsold vehicles as sold. While there are many moving parts to this story and I don't care to opine on this until all the facts are out, it is illustrative of the fact that multi-tier incentives or bribing with "marketing incentives" causes problems for all involved.

It undermines the value of each brand, confuses consumers and now we see it leads to potentially scandalous and misleading reports hitting stock values. It is virtually impossible for dealers to offer transparency in their pricing to consumer if manufacturers will not do the same to their dealers. 

NADA Convention Registration Open 

Online registration for the 2016 NADA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas is open. As one of the most popular destinations in the country for meetings and conventions, several hotels in NADA’s convention block have already sold out. 

Hotel rooms are still available in NADA’s block but they are going fast. The  convention—which runs from Thursday, March 31, through Sunday, April 3, 2016—will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information or to register, visit www.nadaconvention.org.

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