Latest News

Auto Dealers: The Economic Engine of Main Street

Dec 01, 2008

Up to now, much of the discussion about a rescue plan for the auto industry has focused on the Detroit Three: GM, Ford and Chrysler. While NJ CARapplauds these efforts, it is clear that the current economic crisis cannot be resolved only through a “top down” rescue strategy for automakers; we need a “bottom up” strategy, as well, in the form of a comprehensive consumer stimulus package that will get the retail automotive economy moving again.At the federal level, we must restore the tax deductibility of interest payments on consumer auto loans and make state sales taxes and motor vehicle fees paid by new car buyers deductible from federal income taxes. New Jersey’s own Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-8), a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, understands the severity of the situation and why this assistance is needed. He has just introduced the Auto Ownership Tax Assistance Act (H.R. 7273) which would make interest payments on car loans and sales/ excise deductible for new cars purchased from November 12, 2008 through December 31, 2009. In Trenton, a proposal advanced by Republicans to declare an across-the-board state sales tax holiday was recently dismissed out of hand by Democrats who control The State House. But maybe we can still get bi-partisan agreement on a more targeted program to offer state rebates for a portion of the amount paid in state sales taxes and motor vehicle fees by car buyers. This could be a powerful incentive for consumers.These incentives don’t just help consumers and auto retailers; they pump much needed cash in to the State Treasury. Most people are shocked to learn that the State of New Jersey makes 3 times as much (or more) on the sale of a new car or truck than a new car dealer does. Let’s repeat that, because it’s hard to fathom: the State of New Jersey makes 3 times as much (or more) on the sale of a new car or truck than a new car dealer does.In fact, for every 1% drop in new car sales, the State Treasury loses more than $8 million in sales tax revenue and another $1.75 million in motor vehicle fees. Taking decisive action now to counteract plummeting auto sales could avoid tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. We estimate state sales tax revenues from new car sales could be off $120 million or more by year end (for calendar year 2008). That number could swell to more than $200 million by the end of FY 2009 (June 30, 2009).For generations, auto dealers in New Jersey have been the bellwether for the Garden State’s economy – accounting for almost 20 percent of all retail activity and generating billions of dollars in state and local tax revenue. In towns and cities all over New Jersey, auto dealers areanchors of their communities. When it comes to charity and philanthropy, dealers are second to none. When it comes to sponsoring the local Little League sports teams and every other kind of endeavor that makes up the fabric of a community, dealers are second to none. Auto dealers directly employ more than 40,000 men and women in New Jersey, more than all of the domestic automakers in New Jersey combined. In fact, in many communities in New Jersey, auto retailers are among the largest local employers, offering jobs in sales and service and parts and financing – good paying jobs in New Jersey that can’t be outsourced. But these jobs and tens of thousands of others that depend on the auto retail sector are in jeopardy.The real estate crisis, the Wall Street meltdown and the credit crunch have all conspired to erode consumer confidence. If we are going to get the economy back on track, we must restore consumer confidence and give consumers good reasons to go out and buy new cars and trucks again.Government must act torestore stability to the auto industry and a rescue plan for domestic auto makers is an important first step. The economic engine of the auto industry can help get our economy running on all cylinders again.Sure, we have to attack this problem from the “top down” by passing a federal rescue package for ailing auto manufacturers. But we must also attack this problem from the “bottom up” by offering a comprehensive set of state and federal incentives to help dealers sell and encourage consumers to buy.The federal government is already helping Wall Street.And Congress is considering a much-needed rescue package for Detroit. Now it’s time for government at both the state and federal level to turn its attention to the dealers and consumers who need help on Main Street.