Dealer reaction to the collapse of the automotive bridge-loan legislation that would have seen a $14 billion rescue package going toCorp. and LLC, ranges from frustration to pragmatism to admiration for Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
Republican senatorsâ€™ hard stance on a rescue bill has frustrated dealers, whose support generally trends toward the GOP. According to the website opensecrets.org, car dealers have donated $50.3 million to Republicans since 1990, and only $15.8 million to Democrats.
Annette Sykora, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Assn., admits the process has been difficult for the trade groupâ€™s constituency. Another dealer executive tells Wardâ€™s in an email that heâ€™ll have to change his political party now, a sentiment many dealers likely are feeling today.
One Alabama dealer, unhappy with the voteâ€™s outcome, attributes Sen. Richard Shelbyâ€™s (R-AL) refusal to support the bailout legislation to overwhelming polls in the state against helping the auto makers. â€śHeâ€™s attracted to the media attention,â€ť says the dealer.
Carl Galeana, owner of dealerships in Michigan, South Carolina and Florida, says he is â€śreally disappointed from a retail standpoint with the Senateâ€™s decision.â€ť Galeana also expresses frustration with Sen. Lindsey Grahamâ€™s (R-SC) stance against the legislation, saying, â€śItâ€™s obvious they (Senate Republicans) were going after the union.â€ť
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also voted against the bridge-loan legislation after reportedly indicating to dealers privately he would not oppose it.
â€śThereâ€™s no doubt we were disappointed,â€ť says Jack Kain, owner of Jack Kainin Versailles, KY, and a former chairman . â€śHowever, we (U.S. auto makers) really will not be competitive until the union comes to the table. We need a level playing field to compete.â€ť
Kain believes Corkerâ€™s plan made sense, praising his and McConnellâ€™s efforts in trying to produce a bill that would help the domestic auto makers become more competitive.
Buck Baumann, president and owner, Baumann Auto Group, which consists of four GM and threedealerships in northwest Ohio, also liked Corkerâ€™s plan, saying he has the â€śright attitude about it. Heâ€™s trying to get GM into a competitive position, and thatâ€™s what itâ€™s about.â€ť
Baumann expects the auto makers will get the money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program but does not believe the loan will help in the long term.
â€śIt doesnâ€™t respond to the problem,â€ť he says. â€śIf they gave$40 billion, I donâ€™t think that answers the problem. I donâ€™t know if thereâ€™s a loan out there big enough thatâ€™s going to help these manufacturers.â€ť
Baumann thinks bankruptcy for the two auto makers might be a viable option, as â€śundesirableâ€ť as that may be. â€śAs far as the publicâ€™s opinion of buying a product from a bankrupt company, it is an unknown,â€ť he says.
Baumann predicts GM will survive and be in business for the â€ślong haul,â€ť but he is not as confident about Chrysler.
Import dealers also are feeling the heat from the bridge-loan collapse, says Cody Lusk, president-American International Automobile Dealers Assn.
â€śIt makes a horrible problem worse for everyone,â€ť he says. â€śWeâ€™re in such uncharted territory, but no one is immune from the fallout. We canâ€™t really put a number on how drastic this could be.â€ť
Galeana, meanwhile, is more optimistic now that the White House is saying it will step up and provide funding to the two distressed auto makers. â€śItâ€™s better now that the President is doing this, anyway,â€ť he says. â€śIt means there will be less strings attached.â€ť
â€“ with Steve Finlay and Derek Stark