You may remember that a while back, Chrysler and G.M. announced that they'd be cutting a whole bunch of dealerships as part of their bankruptcy reorganization. Having too many dealerships has been a bad, well, deal for the big car-makers, but one they were cemented to maintain until they hit bankruptcy. In fact, it's one of the major good parts of going through all of that crap for them -- they can shed these obligations, which were making them less competitive.
There's resistance to how those cuts were made, though. I lamented
the loss of the small-town dealer culture, myself. Congress is taking that one step further: the House passed a bill that says those closures -- hundreds of which have already happened -- should be reversed.
Earlier this week, Ron Bloom, the new head of the auto-task force (pictured
in the NYT with the their favorite task force member, Brian Deese) told the House Judiciary Committee
that's a bad idea. He also suggested something I think is quite a good idea (emphasis mine):
I understand that several members have raised concerns about the processes the Companies have taken with respect to the dealers. Specific questions about the criteria used in the process or individual dealer determinations are best posed to the Companies themselves. However, throughout this process we have played an oversight role and sought to help ensure transparency in the process. Over the past several weeks, New GM and New Chrysler have worked to explain their processes, and have made several accommodations and clarifications in response to important issues raised by members of this committee and others. We have been assured that any dealer which seeks detailed information about the decision criteria and its specific case will receive this information promptly from the companies.
Two things: First, isn't it about time that the House actually talked to these companies again about how that whole government-funded rebirth thing is going? It was all fun and dramatic to have the Big 3's owners fly in for chastisement earlier this year, but honestly, if Congress wants to get involved, holding some hearings and interviews with the heads of these companies would be a nice start. It might even be a better way to hold the administration accountable than calling up the administration.
Second, if the administration is promising that any dealership can find out exactly why it was shut down, it seems like that might be a good path for these members of the House to pursue with their constituents -- i.e., instead of saying, let me pass a bill to fix all your problems, Bob Dealer, they could say, That's terrible; have you talked to the company?
It's ironic to have House members crying that political decisions were at fault for closing their local dealerships when they're trying to solve the problems through political action, isn't it? In some ways, though I dispute their ultimate logic, I at least understand why Democrats would get behind further government intervention into business, but the Republicans who voted for this bill (like Illinois's own Don Manzullo
, who co-sponsored it) have a bit more explaining to do.