Automakers' only real hope

So, you might own an automaker soon.

The Obama administration and Congress have made bold moves to take a majority stake in General Motors Corp. and a minority stake in Chrysler LLC.

Good luck with the new Government Motors.

Forced into bankruptcy with rebuffed business plans to move forward that resulted in the recent and hastily executed closings of dealerships, GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson and Chrysler President James Press lamented their options as "last chance" to a House panel last Friday.

Their arguments of acting in the best interests of their business by cutting off viable dealerships that bear no real immediate burden on their business are hollow.

The lack of transparency in the decision process, or even a heads-up about what was coming and why, inflames the anger of local businessman Jimmy Scott, the acting general manager at the Henna Chevrolet Cadillac in Aiken.

"(They have) no right to stick their nose in private industry," Mr. Scott said. "They ain't going to gain business by doing this!"

To say these actions weren't the result of administration pressure is preposterous. The entire issue of dealership relationships is secondary to what is needed.

To pinch revenue streams from the "Main Street" faces of GM is in opposition to the argument by the government for bailout.

Lest we forget, no real automaker experience resides on the task force panel.

Given that dealers pay for inventory in advance, the logic of the cuts is befuddling. Legislation on franchise agreements and lawsuits linger. The Nebraska attorney general sees violations in coercing dealers and is seeking help from other states to block those efforts.

The administration and Congress are up to their elbows under the hood and have the wrong wrench. The dealership debacle is an ill-timed, hasty move that rips at consumer confidence.

Justified or not, the total surprise delivered to dealers ripples through our communities, leaves a bitter taste in showrooms and is a travesty to family businesses built on loyalty and a relationship with Detroit.

We agree with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who is trying to set a 2010 deadline for the government to sell all bailout fund stakes; limiting control and exposure for the American people is a must.

Back off and let the automakers maneuver without government controls. It is their only real hope.

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