By Norma Love
The Associated Press
---- — CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan signed legislation yesterday giving New Hampshire auto dealers strong new protections in their dealings with their manufacturers.
Hassan signed the Dealer Bill of Rights law at a Statehouse ceremony. The bill, which takes effect in 90 days, will limit mandatory facility upgrades to every 15 years. Dealers had complained they currently have no leverage in agreements they sign with manufacturers and have said manufacturers can require them to pay for costly and unnecessary renovations.
“This updated law provides a more level playing field between national manufacturers and the men and women of New Hampshire who work so hard in our vehicle and equipment sales industry,” Hassan said. “Local control is a hallmark of New Hampshire, and this law will bring an end to unfair practices in the industry.”
The bill also includes a provision ending mandates by manufacturers to use out-of-state products and contractors to do showroom upgrades and ensures proper reimbursement for warranty work done by local dealers. The bill also covers farm and construction equipment dealers.
The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers had asked Hassan to veto the bill in a letter to her Monday. Spokesman Dan Gage said the alliance has not ruled out any options.
“Automakers are disappointed that unneeded special interest legislation won the day in New Hampshire,” he said. “The likely end result is that consumers will unfortunately pay more for both vehicles and vehicle repairs.”
In its letter, the alliance argued the provision determining warranty reimbursement would simply boost dealer profits and was a “money grab by New Hampshire dealers.”
The bill “is the most draconian version of this provision the industry has seen across all 50 states. The industry standard is seven years (for facility upgrades) and no state has gone beyond a 10-year moratorium. By implementing a 15-year moratorium, New Hampshire auto dealers are seeking legislative permission to protect stale and outdated facilities for twice as long,” Matthew Godlewski wrote Monday in urging Hassan to veto the bill.
But Hassan sided with New Hampshire’s dealers that the changes would give them a stronger voice in negotiating with manufacturers.
Andy Crews, president and chief executive officer of Autofair in Manchester, said in a statement issued by the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association that the law will stop unreasonable and unexpected mandates that come from vehicle manufacturers.
“How would it feel if you were told that you had to spend millions on a remodeled showroom when you aren’t finished paying for the last facility upgrade a few years ago?” he said.