Monday, December 28, 2009

Shape of things present

Congress isn't so willing to surrender its leverage. That was clear when GM and Chrysler decided to terminate about 3,400 dealers. Many turned to their lawmakers, and Congress got involved, prompting the companies to reinstate about 110. But the dealers felt that was insufficient.

GM's frustration with the process boiled over at a mid-November meeting in the office of Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.). GM's usually cool-headed chief lobbyist, Ken Cole, was too agitated to sit, say several participants. When Tammy Darvish, an executive of a dealership in Silver Spring, Md., pressed Mr. Cole about whether it would cost the company any money to reinstate a terminated dealer, the GM team started to pack their briefcases and threatened to walk out, according to Ms. Darvish and a government participant in the meeting. They say the GM team stayed only at the insistence of congressional staffers.

Congress later enacted a provision giving axed dealerships broadened grounds to appeal in arbitration procedures -- broader than the White House or car companies sought.

A spokesman for GM declined to comment on the dealers meeting or Mr. Cole. But the auto maker, now 60% federally owned, said the arbitration law will hurt its efforts to turn a profit and repay the government, which has invested roughly $50 billion in the company.

If, two years ago, you were to show us that excerpt above and told us that would be the shape of things to come as 2009 wound down, we’d have said you needed your head examined.

Things have occurred at such a dizzying pace, though, that one needs to sit down for a moment and absorb the fact that… holy crap, why the hell is Congress even present at this meeting let alone dictating business terms to a major (formerly) private entity?

What a joke, we would’ve probably said adding that being committed Toyota people we would not be subject to the utter fail that this will result in and being happy with the fact that at least Congress won’t be meddling in any of our health care choices.

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