Auto dealers, AAA square off - East Valley Tribune: Business

Auto dealers, AAA square off

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Posted: Saturday, March 4, 2006 5:52 am | Updated: 2:53 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Arizona’s auto dealers and AAA Arizona are squabbling at the Capitol over what the latter claims is a power grab. Legislation being pushed by the dealers would spell out in statute that vehicles must be delivered directly from the dealership to the customer.

Bobbi Sparrow, president of the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association, said that’s what the law already requires.

But AAA spokesman David Cowley said the measure is aimed at auto brokers like the one run by his agency. He said the change would undermine one of the key reasons that people buy from brokers: They don’t want to deal with dealers.

Sparrow, in turn, responded that it is only AAA that sees a sinister motive in the measure. And as proof, she produced a letter from Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, which also has a buyers’ service, saying it has no problem with the proposal.

Nothing in the legislation would put these brokers out of business.

But what happens now, Cowley said, is that after a deal is made and AAA finds a car for a customer, someone from his organization will pick it up from the dealership and bring it either to the AAA office or to the buyer’s home.

Sparrow’s legislation would end that practice. Cowley said that’s a bad idea.

“People we’ve surveyed don’t want to go to the dealer,’’ he said.

Cowley said one reason they come to brokers in the first place is they don’t want the high-pressure sales tactics, not only for the vehicle itself but for those “add-ons’’ that can be very profitable for the dealer. He said that once customers show up to pick up a vehicle they will be subject to the sales pitches for everything from undercoating to the extended warranties.

“That’s what we want to avoid,’’ he said.

Sparrow, however, said the dealership is already required by law to handle the title and registration. She said this legislation just clarifies that has to be done at the dealership.

Cowley said there’s no reason that paperwork must be done in a dealer showroom. He said right now the dealership gives the partly filled-out paperwork to the AAA broker, who gets the rest of the information and then ships it back to the dealership for processing.

Sparrow also said there are safety issues. She said dealers take the time to walk a car buyer through all of the features and issues, ranging from how to turn off the air bag in the front passenger compartment to where a child should — and should not— be allowed to ride.

“That’s the argument,’’ retorted Cowley, saying it has no merit.

“All of our people are former salesmen from dealerships,’’ he said, familiar with the vehicles they are buying. And if they’re not, Cowley continued, they will call the dealership and have someone come over.

Sparrow said that Cowley’s argument that dealers are trying to sell one more thing to buyers ignores one basic fact: The deal is already done by the time the customer comes to get the vehicle. She said they have a check in hand for the negotiated amount and the dealership isn’t likely to foul the sale by trying to get the buyer to purchase some other product or service.

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