A local car dealer is among many in Washington, D.C., this week pushing for the passage of a bill that would stop the cutting of GM and Chrysler dealerships as part of the companies' bankruptcy restructurings.
If you recall, two local dealerships -- Lancaster Dodge and Nourse Interstate Automall in Chester County -- were among those on the hit list.
David McKinney, owner of the Lancaster dealership, is among those fighting for the bill in Washington.
"This represents about 2,600 jobs just in the state of South Carolina," McKinney said this morning from D.C.
The bill, introduced last month by a handful of legislators, essentially asks that the affected dealerships have their franchise licenses reinstated.
"Forcing the closure of automobile dealers would have an especially devastating economic impact in rural communities, where dealers play an integral role in the community, provide essential services and serve as a critical economic engine," part of the bill reads.
The bill so far has 241 sponsors, McKinney said, including Democratic Rep. John Spratt of York.
The "battle to be fought," McKinney said, is in the Senate, where support has been slow in coming. That's why McKinney and about 200 other dealers from across the country are lobbying lawmakers today. It's going well so far, he said.
The legislation is key for rural communities like Lancaster, McKinney said, where residents shouldn't be forced to travel to Charlotte or elsewhere for routine auto services.
"There's lots of reasons that it affects a community directly," he said.
These bankruptcies are not normal, McKinney said, given the role the federal government has played in mandating various aspects of the process. The government should not force business to close, he said.
"There's something fundamentally not American about that process," he said. "This is why Congress is upset about this."
Naturally, the automakers aren't happy about this bill. Here's a snippet from an Associated Press story:
General Motors and Chrysler urged lawmakers Thursday to block legislation that would prevent them from consolidating their dealership networks, warning it would complicate their emergence from government-led bankruptcies.
With GM poised to exit bankruptcy protection, company leaders pressed House members to overturn an amendment approved late Tuesday by a House committee that would force General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to restore franchise agreements with dealers as a condition of partial government ownership.
"The dealers had to be part of the restructuring - therefore this legislation would be problematic to getting that piece of it done," said Mark LaNeve, GM's North American vice president for sales and marketing.
GM and Chrysler, which have received billions in federal aid, have said their large dealer networks have forced many franchises to compete against each other and drive down prices.
GM is reducing its 6,000-dealer network to about 4,100 by not renewing franchise agreements next year and winding down stores with outgoing brands such as Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer.
Chrysler cut 789 of its dealers as part of its restructuring plan, reducing its dealer count to about 2,400 as part of its alliance with Italian automaker Fiat.
But the moves have angered lawmakers who contend that many of their hometown car dealers were shuttered without a full explanation or enough time to prepare.
McKinney said his group plans a press conference at 11:30 a.m. We'll keep you updated on how things play out.
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