Colo. car dealers bill passes Senate vote
DENVER – Colorado lawmakers said they were shocked at the treatment car dealers suffered when GM and Chrysler terminated their dealerships. A Senate committee overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday that would require manufacturers to reimburse dealers for the money they spent upgrading their dealerships over the past five years.Dealers would also get a right of first refusal if the manufacturers later award another franchise nearby.The bill easily passed the Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee and now goes to the full Senate for debate after sailing through the House.David Fitzgerald, former owner of Northglenn Dodge, said he was devastated when Chrysler gave his dealership to another dealer, even though he was one of the top dealers in Colorado.”I don’t want the money, I want my dealership back,” Fitzgerald told lawmakers.Jim Fynes, former owner of the Phil Long Chrysler dealership in Denver, said the bill could force the auto companies to negotiate in good faith under arbitration ordered by the federal government.”They’re just trying to wear us out until we go away,” he said.Dale Sullivan, a regional manager for GM, said four states including Colorado are considering legislation that he says could threaten the company’s ability to return to profitability. The company is spending $60,000 on advertising opposing the bill.Sullivan said 14 of 44 Chrysler dealers in Colorado got termination notices and only five are challenging it.”This would hurt us financially if we don’t get this (restructuring) done,” he said.State Sen. Shawn Mitchell, a Republican from Broomfield who is sponsoring the bill, said the auto companies are trying to portray hard-working dealers as a drain on the company, even though they pay for their own buildings, buy own parts and handle the sales.”All of that is on the back of the dealerships,” he said.Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, said she does not believe the terminations were retaliation for dealers who failed to deal exclusively with their companies. She said they had no choice because of the faltering economy.”Retaliation is too strong a word. Many times, their backs were against the wall,” she said.
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