Dealers quick to adjust to crises

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Many auto dealers are resting their worries on the Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funds last week. What is being done to ensure these businesses have access to those loans?

On the financial end of it, we made a commitment to some of these small businesses, and I think it’s critical. They aren’t shut down because of anything they did wrong. They’re shut down because of a pandemic, which neither they nor any of us had any control over. A lot of the shutdowns were at the behest of the government, so I think we have to be able to help them. I agree with what the president has laid out. I think the administration has done a wonderful job shepherding us through a horrible time period. But let’s address the programs that need to be addressed right now.

What guidance can you offer dealers as they wait for funds?

A lot of times, we depend on programs that are put in place by our manufacturers — incentive programs, a lot of things of that nature. The other thing I would suggest is to stay in touch with your local federal representative. Make sure you’re registering your concerns. If you can keep those issues on the front burner, that’s going to be the best way to get through this. There will be additional funding. The question is: How soon does it get there?

As a congressman and a dealer, what is your perspective on this current economic and public health crisis?

Sales are the biggest driver. Whenever you take that element away from any business model, my concern is OK, you’re shutting them down.

When they start back up again, how are you going to help them start back up? Look how quickly the manufacturers have changed and quickly adjusted their offers that they’re putting out there to people — 84 months financing in some cases, a delay of payments for six months. Our business will adjust to whatever situation that it’s in. What it can’t adjust to is being shut down through a government mandate and not being able to respond to the markets.

How will Congress be working to support auto dealers once the virus is contained?

What worked before will work again. Pro-growth policies — ones that put a lower burden, both taxes and regulation, on businesses — are the keys to growth. Every dollar that we allow the American people to keep is a dollar they can choose to spend any way they want to spend it. The best thing the government can do is have as little negative effect on the private sector as possible.

Will Congress consider a repeat of Cash for Clunkers or a similar program to help the auto industry?

When the government handled Cash for Clunkers, that was a disaster. Nothing was worse administered than that. It took so long to get the money out to dealers. We had people out of trust for months because they couldn’t get their money from the government.

That was one of the most disastrous programs I think I’ve ever seen. We crushed more really good cars and trucks than we ever should have. I’d rather see programs right now that help people get through a very tough period of time, and then let the markets go to work. Let the private sector do what the private sector does best and that is drive for success.

Anything else you’d like to say to auto dealers who are looking to the government for guidance?

Nobody adjusts quicker to the market changes than retail merchants. I’m including auto dealers in that. We adjust very quickly with what we stock on our lots, with the hours that we’re open, with our advertising, with our merchandising, with our pay plans.

We adjust very quickly because we have to. The automobile people always lead. Coming out of any depression — any type of a recession — who leads? Automobiles and construction. They are adapters. They will adapt to whatever the situation is. We’re going to get through this thing.

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Saurabh Shukla

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