New Orleans – Despite an auto sales turnaround over the past year, new-car dealers still face major industry and regulatory challenges, said David Westcott, the outgoing chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).
“Last year, we faced a new threat to dealer-assisted financing and our business model,” said Westcott, in remarks at the 2014 NADA Convention & Expo in New Orleans last week. “In-dealership financing has been enormously successful in increasing access to auto credit, and reducing the cost for millions of Americans. Consumers overwhelmingly choose dealer-assisted financing because it’s convenient and affordable.”
Last March, however, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued “guidance” to indirect auto lenders alleging that the industry has engaged in unintentional, statistical discrimination against protected minority classes. “Now let me be clear: our industry strongly opposes any form of discrimination in any aspect of our business. Discrimination is just wrong and illegal,” added Westcott, a Buick-GMC dealer in Burlington, N.C. “If a federal agency is making allegations that discrimination exists in our industry, it should have to explain itself, and it needs to be transparent with the public.”
Congress has weighed in many times, and representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle are asking the CFPB to answer some very basic questions, he said. “If the CFPB gets its way, what happens? Consumers will lose the ability to see if dealers can ‘meet or beat’ an offer from their own bank,” Westcott added. “This will harm competition. This will harm customers. And the customers who will suffer the most are those who have the least.”
Westcott urged individual dealers and dealer associations to keep engaging and informing their members of Congress on the issue. “Our message is simple: the CFPB’s effort to coerce the industry into adopting flat fees will harm the car buying public,” he said. “Rest assured that NADA will continue to lead the charge and defend in-dealership financing.”