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Automakers Ask Hassan To Axe Bill

Once Signed, Bill Would Keep Costs Down for Local Dealers

Concord — The leading automakers group made a final plea to get Gov. Maggie Hassan to veto an auto dealers protection bill calling it a piece of “special interest legislation.”

“Senate Bill 126 is an ill-crafted piece of special interest legislation that will increase the cost of doing business for manufacturers in the state and result in added costs to consumers,” the automakers wrote in a letter to Hassan yesterday.

This bid by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, however, will fail since Hassan already scheduled a signing ceremony for this afternoon in the Statehouse with auto dealers from across the state.

“I greatly appreciate the important role that New Hampshire’s vehicle and equipment dealers play in our state’s economy. This updated law provides a more level playing field between national manufacturers and the men and women of New Hampshire who work so hard in our vehicle and equipment sales industry,” Hassan said in a statement.

“Local control is a hallmark of New Hampshire, and this law will bring an end to unfair practices in the industry.”

In a sharply-worded letter to Hassan yesterday, the automakers left little doubt they likely will go to court to challenge the constitutionality of this bill (SB 126) that won overwhelming support in the New Hampshire Legislature.

Specifically, the alliance maintains the bill is flawed by making the automakers reimburse dealers more for warranty work done on cars and trucks.

“Mandating reimbursement rates for dealers is not a consumer issue; it is a money grab by New Hampshire dealers,” wrote Matthew Godlewski, vice president of state affairs for the Washington, DC-based alliance.

According to the group, it is also suing over the same issue in Florida and Connecticut courts.

Andy Crews, CEO of Autofair, said proper reimbursement payment for dealers that do warranty work is to restore fairness to the car marker-seller dynamic.

This will not change the fundamental relationship between local dealers and national manufacturers,” Crews maintained. “But it will offer a fair and reasonable set of rules to ensure costly mandates that threaten a New Hampshire business can be prevented. For too long, there has been a one-way dialogue with manufacturers and it has cost New Hampshire dealers millions of dollars.”

The New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association maintains it made several dozen compromises on the bill during 30 hours of work sessions before the House Commerce Committee.

President Peter McNamara said the bill will prevent many smaller auto dealerships from being bought up by bigger chains.

“Without this legislation they would have faced massive, increased costs every seven years and that would have changed the landscape,” he said. “You would have had mega-dealers buying out the smaller ones.”

The bill prevents any automaker from requiring a dealer to make improvements to their facility more often than every 15 years.

This is the longest protection period of any state in the country and automaker. Godlewski said the national standard is seven years.

“By implementing a 15-year moratorium, New Hampshire auto dealers are seeking legislative permission to protect stale and outdated facilities for twice as long,” Godlewski added.

The automakers released results of a poll they had taken from New Hampshire residents that found:

∎ 71 percent say government should stay out of such private business matters and,

∎ 69 percent oppose any state action intended to block manufacturer-led reforms to improve the car buying process.