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Hassan signs into law broad new protections for N.H. auto dealers

New Hampshire auto dealers gained sweeping new legal protections yesterday when Gov. Maggie Hassan signed legislation expanding the state’s existing “Dealer Bill of Rights.”

The bill passed both the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate this spring with overwhelming majorities.

“Local control is a hallmark of the New Hampshire way of life,” Hassan said. “By preventing costly mandates that have driven up costs for New Hampshire’s vehicle and equipment dealers, (Senate Bill) 126 creates clear rules that return much-needed control to local owners, ensuring that both sides have rights.”

The New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association enthusiastically supported the bill, while domestic and foreign automakers fought it as it advanced through the Legislature.

The bill expands the existing protections offered under state law for locally owned franchises that sell automobiles and farm or construction equipment.

Among other things, it bans manufacturers from requiring their dealerships to upgrade their facilities except every 15 years, requires automakers to pay higher reimbursement rates for repair work made under warranty and allows dealers greater access to the files manufacturers keep on them.

“It provides balance in the one-sided relationship between car dealers and car manufacturers,” said Pete McNamara, president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers had urged Hassan to veto the bill.

“Automakers are disappointed that unneeded special interest legislation won the day in New Hampshire. The likely end result is
that consumers will unfortunately pay more for both vehicles and vehicle repairs,”
said Dan Gage, a spokesman
for the trade group, in a
statement.

The bill also includes a provision allowing an automaker to sell vehicles directly to consumers if they don’t have a dealership in the state. That could provide an opening for newer automakers, such as California-based electric car company Tesla Motors, that don’t have extensive dealer networks.

The bill sailed through the Legislature, passing the Senate in March on a 21-2 vote and clearing the House last month on a 338-30 vote. Hassan signed the bill in a brief ceremony yesterday at the State House, and it formally takes effect in 90 days.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Here we have the state altering legal contracts and it passes the House and the Senate with overwhelming majorities. I guess the big automakers did not donate enough to local politics. Will food franchises be next?

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