Dealers, automakers call for fair competition

With more than 400 dealerships across the state, Hoosier auto dealers are no stranger to competition. They thrive on it. Without competition, businesses are not forced to innovate or to find better ways to serve the public. But any threat to a fair, competitive market is a detriment to the public and the auto industry itself.

In Indiana, along with most states across the nation, automakers are required to bring their vehicles to market through a network of franchised dealerships. This framework has worked for nearly a century to protect all parties including manufacturers, dealers, and most importantly, Hoosier consumers.

As the auto industry continues to advance and innovate, loopholes in the system will be found. Currently, one such loophole exists that allows certain manufacturers — including Tesla — to sell directly to consumers in Indiana creating an uneven playing field.

But, this is not about Tesla and its electric cars. Indiana dealers would welcome any automaker as potential partners and would gladly sign on to sell their vehicles. Dealers are already highly experienced in alternative vehicles. They have selling been electric cars along with flex fuel and hydrogen powered vehicles for years.

This is about public policy and the future of inspiring innovation but also protecting consumers from unintended consequences. When businesses like Google, Apple, Uber, and 200 Chinese electric car companies join Tesla in releasing their electric vehicles and self-driving cars to the masses, dealers should be there to advocate for American consumers as dealers always have.

The dealers and their employees are the only professionals trained to educate and protect buyers by being in your local neighborhood day-in and day-out in a way that manufacturers cannot.

And automakers agree with our stance. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers represents 77 percent of all car and light truck sales in the United States. Among its members — from General Motors to Toyota to Mercedes-Benz — there is heavy competition, but the alliance believes, as testified to legislators in September, all manufacturers should be playing by the same rules when it comes to product distribution as mandated by Indiana state law regardless of vehicle type, size of fleet or timing of entry to market.

Without sensible regulations, consumers will be exposed to predatory manufacturers. It’s not a matter of if, but when. We don’t have rules for the sake of having rules, rather some oversight is vital to protect the consumer’s interest and to promote small businesses across the state. Here are a few reasons why auto rules are important:

When there is a substantial opportunity for consumers to suffer harm.

To ensure that Indiana’s interests are realized.

To level the playing field between large and small businesses.

In order to protect consumers our state’s auto laws maintain every market participant should be treated fairly and equitably. The laws also govern that the marketing, sale and repair of vehicles should provide fair competition for every automaker and not grant special privileges to a select few.

Marty Murphy is executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.