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Inspector General Report On Dealership Closures Finds They May Not Have Been Necessary

Jul 29, 2010

On July 19, 2010, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) released its report regarding the dealership closures and the findings are not at all surprising to the dealership community at large. SIGTARP concluded that, “…at a time when the country was experiencing the worst economic downturn in generations and the Government was asking its taxpayers to support a $787 billion stimulus package designed primarily to preserve jobs, Treasury made a series of decisions that may have substantially contributed to the accelerated shuttering of thousands of small businesses and, thereby, potentially adding tens of thousands of workers to the already lengthy unemployment rolls—all based on a theory and without sufficient consideration to the decisions’ broader economic impact.” That is what dealers across the country were telling anyone who would listen from the very first day that closures were mentioned as a potential remedy for the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. The report found that Automotive Task Force and the Treasury Department relied on a single consulting firm’s internal report recommending that GM and Chrysler adopt foreign auto-industry models to increase profits; a recommendation hotly disputed by many who questioned whether foreign practices could be applied to domestic dealership networks. While some industry experts agreed with the Task Force that GM and Chrysler needed fewer dealers, the report found the Task Force pushed to close too many dealerships too quickly without adequately considering the jobs that would be lost, or having a firm idea of the cost savings that would be achieved. The Treasury Department should have “taken every reasonable step” to ensure the closures were necessary, and that the benefits to the companies outweighed the economic costs of “potentially tens of thousands of accelerated job losses,” the report concluded. The trade press, mainstream media and political commentators have all taken the Auto Task Force and Treasury Department to task following the release of the report. The U.S. Treasury Department has responded to the Inspector General’s report, saying it “strongly disagreed” with the conclusions, arguing that sacrifices were necessary from all stakeholders in GM and Chrysler in order for them to remain viable and keep them from collapsing entirely.