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According to reports made by the Associated Press, the political clout of 18,000 auto dealers scattered nationwide was too much even for President Barack Obama to resist.

House and Senate negotiators putting final shape to a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulations all but agreed June 22 to exclude auto dealers from the oversight of a consumer financial protection bureau.

“The political reality is that those of us who have fought against an auto dealer carve-out can’t prevail,” Representative Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

The House bill approved last December contained an exemption for auto dealers, among others, from lending regulations issued by the proposed consumer agency.

The Senate did not, but the sentiment was there. In a 60-30 nonbinding vote last month, senators called for the auto dealer loophole.

Under a compromise offered by Senate Democrats Tuesday, auto dealers would still be covered by federal truth-in-lending rules that would have to conform to regulations adopted by the consumer agency.

Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) has launched a national wholesale parts loyalty program on behalf of its Nissan and Infiniti dealer networks.  Designed to increase Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) collision and mechanical parts sales, the "Rewards Loyalty" program allows independent body shops and repair facilities to earn points that can be redeemed for more than 3,000 premiums selected from an online catalog.  Advantage DataSystems Corporation has been selected to administer the program.

"Encouraging independent shop owners to purchase genuine OEM parts through their local Nissan and Infiniti dealers is a win-win-win," said Ron Stukenberg, senior manager, Wholesale & Collision Parts, NNA.  "Our dealers benefit from increased parts sales and a closer relationship with their local business community, our Nissan and Infiniti owners benefit through the assurance that approved factory parts have been used in their repairs, and the shop owners know they are getting quality parts plus an added reward."

Once Nissan and Infiniti dealers enroll in the Rewards Loyalty program, they select the wholesale mechanical program and collision repair network facilities they wish to include (participation is free for the shops). 

Each shop is then sent an I.D. number and instructions for online enrollment.  Points are earned with purchases, with rewards available from just 20 points.

With passage of SB 2508 last night, consumers could be facing increased hassles and overall higher costs in the auto body repair process unless Governor Donald Carcieri vetoes this legislation, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). "This legislation is bad for consumers and we will urge the governor to veto the bill,” said Frank O'Brien, vice president, state government relations for PCI.

"SB 2508 will add to the hassle of being in an accident by requiring the additional step of an independent appraisal in the repair process. The majority of repair jobs would need this extra step, adding time and cost to a repair process that is already one of the costliest in the country.”

In recent years the Auto Body Association of Rhode Island (ABARI) has pressured Rhode Island legislators to pass 15 various measures that have driven up costs to consumers without improving the quality of repairs. Rhode Island is now the fourth most expensive state in the country to repair a car. On average, it costs $2,818 here – $460 more than the US average of $2,358.

“ABARI has been chipping away at consumer choices and repair options that would control costs for several years,” said O’Brien. “As a result of these bills costs continue to rise and with SB 2508 both time and expense will be added to the repair process. We will be asking Governor Carcieri to step in and protect consumers from yet another self-serving auto body repair measure that has been pushed through the legislature."

The Rhode Island General Assembly adjourned its 2010 formal session last night, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).     

“This session, like many that have preceded it in Rhode Island, presented a number of challenges to the insurance industry,” according to Laura Kersey, AIA assistant vice president, Northeast Region.  

Notably, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 2508, the An Act Relating to Insurance; Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act. SB 2508 was introduced on behalf of the Auto Body Association of Rhode Island (ABARI) and would require an independent appraisal on all cars with damages in excess of $2,500 by an appraiser unaffiliated with the repair shop.

“No other state requires this kind of appraisal, and SB 2508 would only add time and costs to a repair process that is already one of the most costly in the country,” said Kersey “Unfortunately, Rhode Island legislators approved a bill that could increase repair costs for consumers, increase hassle for consumers and limit consumer choice.”

SB 2508 now awaits Gov. Donald Carcieri’s consideration, and AIA will urge him to veto this ill-advised legislation.

Thursday, 10 June 2010 17:21

Chrysler recalls almost 700,000 vehicles

Chrysler is recalling almost 600,000 minivans and Jeep Wranglers in the United States and another 100,000 elsewhere because of brake or wiring problems that could create safety problems, the company and federal regulators said Monday.

Chrysler said it is recalling 288,968 Jeep Wranglers from the 2006 through 2010 model years due to a potential brake fluid leak.

It also is recalling 284,831 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans from the 2008 and 2009 model years because a wiring problem can cause a fire inside the sliding doors.

Another 76,430 Wranglers and 34,143 minivans are being recalled in Canada, Mexico and other international markets, Chrysler said.

Neither problem has caused any crashes or injuries, Chrysler Group LLC said.

It was the second notable recall in the past week for Chrysler. The company recalled nearly 35,000 Dodge Calibers and a limited number of Jeep Compasses last week to fix a potential problem with sticky gas pedals, the same issue that has afflicted millions of Toyotas.

The recall comes five weeks after U.S. safety regulators opened an investigation into potentially sticky accelerator pedals in Chrysler vehicles, based on five consumer complaints.

General Motors Co. is recalling 1.53 million cars and trucks worldwide because fires can be ignited by components that heat windshield-washer fluid.

The company will disable the heating mechanism in the washers of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer and Saturn brands from model years 2006 to 2009, according to an e-mailed statement today. It said it will pay owners $100 for each vehicle because the feature won’t be available and the maker of the units is out of business.

“One big recall probably won’t hurt GM if it’s just one big recall,” said Jim Hall, a principal at 2953 Analytics Inc., a consulting firm in Birmingham, Michigan.

“They have to market on so many fronts. The last thing they need to do is counter market against a recall.” Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker, recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for defects that may cause unintended acceleration. Following the recalls, U.S. regulators stepped up scrutiny of auto safety, and Congress is considering measures to tighten regulation of the industry. GM’s heated windshield washer, which the company said was supplied by Micro-Heat Inc., was recalled in 2008 for repairs. The automaker received five reports of fires in the components in the past year, prompting today’s action, the company said.