This Is America?


You grew up watching your grandparents build a business, investing their life savings along with their tears and sweat. Your father, and perhaps mother, learned from them the value of hard work, honesty and the importance of community. They then taught the same lessons to you.

You watched as your grandparents -- and parents after them -- gave their money and time to civic organizations, schools and churches while providing jobs to people in town.

Perhaps you worked alongside your parents as a youngster, washing cars, cleaning windows in the showroom or sweeping out the service bays.

And then it was your turn to carry on the legacy. You were loyal to the manufacturer even when you weren’t sure what that was going to get you. You endured zone managers who often were fresh-faced, earnest kids out of college trying to tell you how to run your business.

You listened as the regional manager plopped a market study on your desk saying the market could sustain multiple dealers, while defending putting another dealership a few miles away.

You invested millions building a new facility to be compliant with your manufacturer’s plan of the month.

You tried to find ways to work with the manufacturer when it needed you to take extra vehicles. Yeah, they put the gun to your head and threatened your livelihood to “encourage” you to play ball but you stuck with the manufacturer through the tough times, doing what was necessary to help the brand survive.

Perhaps you even traveled to the nation’s capital a few months ago to lobby Congress to provide emergency funding to your manufacturer.

In February, when your auto maker’s survival was in serious doubt, you ordered more inventory because the company president asked you to.

Even with car sales plummeting, you managed to keep your business profitable and your CSI scores high. You were confident when the rumors of dealership reductions played out in the media. You’ve done everything necessary to protect your business, you’ll be safe.

And then the man in the brown uniform delivered a letter on May 14.

You knew without opening it. The business your grandparents, your parents and your family have built is being ripped from your hands and handed to the dealer a few miles away – the same one your regional manager argued would be good for the marketplace.

All of your investment is gone because the manufacturer, using the protection of bankruptcy, says it doesn’t have to pay you anything.

All because some consultant convinced President Obama’s task force that auto makers need dealers selling higher volumes. “You need more throughput,” they say. Even though they didn’t know what the word meant a couple of months ago.

The manufacturers didn’t push back because they see it as a great opportunity to force their dealers into complying fully with their demands while circumventing state-franchise laws.

The Federal government sees only the bottom line while turning its back on small business. The finance institutions are rewriting the rules and likewise have turned their backs on small business.

And the courts are rubberstamping everything the manufacturer and the task force want.

For dealers, there is no recourse.

This is America? I wonder if this is what the founding fathers envisioned.

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