Monday, May 24, 2010

Washington Needs a Lesson in Car 101...

Optimism usually grows on trees for dealers.

But what's happening in Washington these days has even the most optimistic dealers doubting the system.

At an American International Automobile Dealers Association's event here last week, a different "O" word surfaced more than once: Obama.

Just a year after the administration saved Chrysler and General Motors, there is growing concern that the president is letting the usual suspects hammer away at dealers, this time using the context of financial reform legislation aimed at Wall Street.

The president's recent statements and the subsequent back-and-forth over an amendment to protect dealers, proposed by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., added fuel to the fire.

"Auto dealer-lenders make nearly 80 percent of the automobile loans in our country," the president said in a statement, "and these lenders should be subject to the same standards as any local or community bank that provides loans."

Forgive those "auto dealer-lenders," but being lumped in with Morgan Stanley didn't exactly feel like a perfect fit.

"Pure fiction," Ed Tonkin, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said in a statement last week.

From financial reform to black boxes to fuel economy standards, there is the distinct feeling that the Beltway is tightening around the throats of automakers and dealers.

"It makes you wonder," AIADA Chairman Rick DeSilva told me, "whether someone in the administration got into a bad car one day or something."

While it's unknown right now how the financial overhaul ultimately will affect dealers -- some believe it could restrict the financing terms dealers can offer or possibly restrict margins -- what is certain is that the landscape is changing.

The trouble is that auto executives have a sense that legislators don't understand the first thing about the car business.

One AIADA member recently had to explain floorplanning to a congressional staffer.

"You mean you actually own the cars?" the staffer asked the dealer.

There's a lot of work to do in this recovery. Educating Washington is one element that shouldn't be forgotten. Or maybe I'm being too optimistic.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bath Time!

Bath Time!
Originally uploaded by kelly-bell
Seriously, Kitty, it's totally unnecessary that you keep this up! This is the FOURTH live chipmunk she's brought into the house alive & let loose in just as many weeks!

Does anyone realize how hard it is to catch a terrified chipmunk? Ugh.