FTC to Host Public Workshop Examining the U.S. Auto Distribution System Workshop Will Explore Competition, State Regulations, and Emerging Trends in the Industry, Project No. P131202
In my experience as an automobile consumer, I have never felt that franchised auto dealerships have had my best interest at heart. Aside from the opaque purchase transactions, franchised dealership's service centers are notorious profit centers, to the point where most customers feel exploited and ultimately seek service for their vehicles elsewhere. On the other hand, in 2013 I purchased a vehicle factory direct - and the experience could not have been more transparent. A refreshing change that has opened my eyes to the value of competitive alternatives to the entrenched franchised dealer model. Same holds true on the service front - where the manufacturer of the vehicle I purchased has a stated policy that service should never be a profit center for the company; in fact that a profitable service center is a reflection of a sub-par product. They have a vested interest in keeping my purchase running to its top potential that has resulted in a level of satisfaction I've never before experienced in what is by nature a more adversarial 'dealer as middleman' model. Dealerships claim they add value to the customer - and that may be true. The only way we will know is through a marketplace where there are other options. In NJ, NJCAR and it's constituent dealer members forced the Governor and the NJDMV to restrict our access to those other options. They succeeded for a brief time in closing the market under century old protectionist legislation that long outlived its relevance and usefulness here in NJ. The purchase I was free to make in 2013 became illegal in 2014. That was wrong, and an interim deal has once again restored our freedom of choice with some notable restrictions and limitations. Better than nothing, but still ultimately protectionist at heart. Any rule which restricts a manufacturer's ability to bring their product to market is a rule we don't need. Both manufacturers and dealers must be permitted prove their value to consumers in a free and open marketplace. Ultimately, at scale there may indeed be a symbiotic relationship between dealers and manufacturers - but it must be a relationship entered into by choice, not by regulation.