Soapbox

California new car dealers push a self-serving bill that hurts consumers

A Honda salesman gives a test drive to a customer in an electric car in San Rafael in 2015.
A Honda salesman gives a test drive to a customer in an electric car in San Rafael in 2015. The New York Times

It’s not often that carmakers and consumer protection groups stand shoulder-to-shoulder on automobile regulations. But on Assembly Bill 2107, the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers agree that this legislation sponsored by the California New Car Dealers Association is self-serving and would be terrible for consumers.

 
Opinion

AB 2107 – authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes and headed to the Assembly floor as soon as Thursday – would limit choice, drive up new car prices and increase repair costs.

Curt Augustine
Curt Augustine

Most Californians are unaware of the complex and arcane laws that govern car repairs and parts. For example, there are multiple regulatory boards that oversee disputes between automakers and car dealerships and the operation and licensing of repair businesses. The sweeping, unprecedented and self-interested changes proposed by new car dealers are egregious.

Rosemary Shahan
Rosemary Shahan

Already, the Department of Motor Vehicles regulates the new car sales industry and the New Motor Vehicle Board settles disputes between new car dealers and consumers, or between new car dealers and manufacturers.

The car dealers association is trying to expand the power and influence of the motor vehicle board because nearly half of its members are dealers. The board possesses the authority to overturn DMV efforts designed to protect consumers, a clear conflict of interest.

AB 2107 would heavily favor new car dealers at board hearings by manipulating how evidence is presented and creating an unfair process for determining disputes. Ultimately, this would tip the scales away from car buyers.

Consumer choice is vital while buying a vehicle so why would lawmakers embrace legislation that limits choice, especially when the state is encouraging motorists to buy zero-emissions cars? Yet AB 2107 would ban car makers from offering vehicle subscription programs that give drivers the opportunity to test multiple models for a flat fee. These programs allow manufacturers and prospective car buyers to try new power trains, technologies and transmissions, so how do consumers and our environment benefit from limiting them?

Also, AB 2107 would create a monopoly for new car dealers by banning other retailers from selling manufacturer vehicle parts.

Nothing about AB 2107 is good for car owners, buyers or the general public. This bill only serves the interests of the New Car Dealers Association, which is banking on consumers not paying attention This is special interest politics at its absolute worst.

Curt Augustine is senior director of policy & government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and can be contacted at caugustine@autoalliance.org. Rosemary Shahan is president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and can be contacted at press@carconsumers.org.

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