Ever wonder why you can’t just order a new car over the internet, directly from the manufacturer? Then pick it up at the factory, or a local showroom, like people do in Europe? It’s because U.S. auto dealers have used their political muscle to get laws passed in all 50 states that give them a special monopoly. Those state franchise laws insulate them from having to compete with manufacturers for your business.
Car dealers got the laws enacted because they know that, given a choice, most car buyers would never subject themselves to the typical car-buying experience.
Car dealers are now attacking electric car manufacturer Tesla in court and in state legislatures, seeking to bar the company from selling its highly-praised electric vehicles directly to the public. Tesla is wise to be wary of auto dealers. As a group, auto dealers are throwbacks to the era of horse-trading. They have been among the most aggressive opponents of advances in fuel economy standards. They also have a long history of opposing mandates to produce electric vehicles.
Car dealers repeatedly sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to block higher fuel economy standards. They waged all-out war against improved fuel economy in Congress. The end result, of course, was that when the price of gas rose, the value of their gas-guzzling products tanked, leaving their customers upside down in their overpriced loans. Then we bailed them out, at taxpayer expense, including the $3 billion they got from “Cash for Clunkers.”
Plus auto dealers commonly engage in a laundry list of shady or downright illegal practices that add billions onto the price of financing cars — hard-earned money that could be spent to get a newer, safer, cleaner car.
Think you might like to have the freedom to buy directly from a manufacturer someday? Now it’s only a pipe dream for car buyers in most states — unless you’re willing to travel to Europe — but someday it may become reality here in the U.S.
Read more: National Public Radio report