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Judge Partially Blocks N.H. Dealer-Protection Bill, GM Drops State Dealer Incentives

September 24, 2013

By Stephanie Forshee

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s new law, which was designed to implement greater protections for dealers from automakers, was amended late last week to exclude heavy farm equipment manufacturers, days before the law was to go into effect Monday. On that day, General Motors (GM) announced it was pulling sales incentives from New Hampshire dealers.

GM joined a list of manufacturers that opposed Senate Bill 126, which was championed this year by the New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association (NHADA). The bill — which limits manufacturers’ facility upgrades to no more than every 15 years and emphasizes buying local — was originally signed into law on June 25 by Governor Maggie Hassan. It was set to take effect 90 days later, which was Monday.

“GM is proud to offer consumers in New Hampshire an outstanding lineup of cars, trucks, crossovers and SUVs,” GM said in an e-mailed statement. “But it makes little business sense for us to invest resources in sales programs for dealers after the state legislature, supported by dealer groups, has passed a law that makes it harder and more costly for us to do business with them.”

Peter McNamara, president of the NHADA, told The New Hampshire Union Leader: “I think it’s GM being vindictive against the dealers for attempting to stand up for their rights.”

Earlier this month, John Deere and heavy farm equipment manufacturers AgCo and Case New Holland filed a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction — which was granted by a judge last week. The companies claimed that the law violates the state and federal constitutions by retroactively changing their contracts with dealerships.

“It represents an unprecedented level of regulation for our industry and jeopardizes Deere’s ability to do business in New Hampshire by voiding many of the provisions of our dealer agreements,” Ken Golden, director of global public relations for John Deere, told the Associated Press earlier this month.

McNamara responded via e-mail to the court ruling, saying the association is disappointed. "The people who really are hurt are consumers,” he said. “This ruling keeps marketplace competition down and now it makes it more difficult to get equipment repaired.

“The out-of-state manufacturers waited until the last possible moment to file the suit, which gave the state and the court only a few days to respond. We expect to be successful in defeating the permanent injunction once a court is able to fully examine the manufacturers’ arguments and the 30-plus hours of favorable testimony."

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