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May 19. 2013 7:38PM

NH car manufacturers campaign against proposed auto dealer law

CONCORD - The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers begins a campaign today urging defeat of a bill that changes agreements with auto dealers covering facility renovations and warranty work among other issues.

The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on Senate Bill 126, which passed the Senate on a 21-2 vote. The House Commerce Committee added more protections for local auto dealers.

Auto dealers say they can make better decisions about their franchises than out-of-state manufacturers. They said the bill would require more transparency and uniformity from manufacturers and would give dealers more control over construction projects by "buying local."

The manufacturers' advertising campaign draws on information from a survey that shows a majority of New Hampshire residents oppose lawmakers' involvement in private business relationships between auto manufacturers and retail car dealers.

In the radio ad the group claims: "Car dealers want special treatment, special favors that benefit only them and cost you more."

According to the survey done by Pulse Opinion Research on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 71 percent say government should stay out of such private business matters, with 11 percent supporting legislative involvement.

"New Hampshire consumers are clearly opposed to the State House interceding in private business contracts between two willing parties, and seven out of 10 respondents oppose any state legislative action that would block automakers from implementing much-needed reforms to improve the car buying process," said Dan Gage, director of communications and public affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "Senate Bill 126 is an unfair favor for wealthy car dealers at the expense of everyone else. It will cost consumers more."

"Dealers argue that their legislation is pro-consumer, but nothing in their special favor bill would address a single important reform identified by consumers or lower their costs," said Gage. "It will instead do the opposite and preserve the status quo."

Dealers testified before lawmakers that they have been told they have to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities and if they do not their franchise agreement will not be renewed.

Under the current version of the bill, auto manufacturers could not demand showroom upgrades more than once every 15 years and dealers would receive retail labor and equipment rates when they do warranty work.

No other state has the 15-year rule, and unlike other states, New Hampshire would not allow manufacturers to recover the difference between retail and wholesale warranty costs.

The survey was done May 8 with 800 state residents and has a margin of error of +/- four percent.

grayno@unionleader.com


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