Friday, May 15, 2009

The War on Capitalism Goes On

Imagine you owned a Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealership that got a letter from Auburn Hills, MI or Washington, DC (hard to tell where the company is based) yesterday telling you that you were toast. Your family owned the business. Your entrepreneurial spirit turned it into something that employed dozens... hundreds of people over the years. Through the years you complied with every demand coming from "Detroit" to take inventory you didn't want, at your expense, as they flooded the channel. You complied with all of their marketing schemes even though you doubted it was a good thing to train the consumer to only buy when cash rebates or zero percent financing were offered. You did your part.

Then, without any clear reason given, your place got the gas pipe while others survived. No rationale was offered as to what criteria were used. In fact, nobody will actually tell you who made the decision. Chrysler? Fiat? The White House? It felt pretty arbitrary. Did they look on and notice that you donated money to Republican political candidates over the years? After all, there's a war on capitalism going on and, in the auto business, Big Labor gets steak on fine china while rule-of-law goes out the window and bondholders get a shit sandwich on a paper plate. So it isn't a stretch at all to figure that Rattner and the Auto Overlords appointed by ObamaPrompter combed donation lists to make their decisions. That's how the game's being played every day in DC: Chicago, Venezuela on the Potomac.

You have to go to your staff and ask them to hang on while you sell off the inventory but eventually they'll all be let go. They know it. You know it. It's probably over. No pardon is coming from the President.

And then you flip on CNBC this morning and hear the head of AutoNation, a competitor of yours, talk about how he's been at the meetings of Rattner's auto task force. He says they're doing a great job. He says that closing 800 dealerships, while painful, is appropriate. He doesn't say how they were picked, but you note that none of his stores got axed.

Would you be bitter? You bet.