laurie roberts again comes up with and amazingly simple libertarian solution - "Just don't sell them cars."

Back from the dead: Bill would muscle car brokers from deal

Mar. 29, 2006 12:00 AM

When Gail Griffith needed a new car, there was no question where she'd go. She's a working woman, one who didn't want to spend her weekends trudging from car lot to car lot, one who didn't want to endure high-pressure sales tactics, didn't want to fend off high-priced window tinting and undercoating and the ever-popular desert-protection package.

So she called a car broker, told him what she wanted and what she would pay. The broker delivered her new Honda Civic to her credit union.

"It was the most pleasant experience I ever had," the Glendale woman told me. "You don't have to go through any kind of big sales process where somebody's trying to wear you down. I just love it. I've bought three cars that way."

Which explains why the car dealers are out in force at the Legislature this year. House Bill 2386 would limit what brokers can do, apparently forcing the Gail Griffiths of the world back into the dealership.

Brokers say it's a thinly veiled attempt by dealers to muscle them aside and get you into one of those little rooms where they can pressure you to buy all those pricey little extras that you never wanted.

The dealers say it's simply a matter of clarifying the law so they can meet their obligations when they sell you a car.

"We need to clarify that they (brokers) can't do what they think they can do," said Bobbi Sparrow, executive director of the Arizona Auto Dealers Association.

So badly do the dealers want that clarification that they've employed an army of lobbyists to bring the bill back from the dead. Twice.

"It tells me is that there must be a heck of a lot of money involved," House Commerce Chairman Michele Reagan told me.

Reagan declined to hear the bill when it was assigned to her committee. So the bill's sponsor, Rep. Gary Pierce, instead pushed it through the House Federal Mandates and Property Rights Committee. Never mind that buying a car has nothing to do with either federal mandates or property rights.

Reagan prevailed on House Speaker Jim Weiers to route the bill back to Commerce, where she again killed it. But Tuesday afternoon, it rose from the dead once more, this time in the Senate Transportation Committee, which voted 3-2 to OK it.

The brokers say the bill would no longer allow them to handle the customer end of the paperwork involved in buying a new car or to deliver the car, essentially forcing customers back into the hands of the car salespeople they were trying to avoid.

"They come to me so they don't have to go into the dealership," Jenna Flynn, owner of Elite Auto Services, told me.

But Matt Salmon, chairman of the state Republican Party and a lobbyist for the auto dealers, says the bill has nothing to do with trying to cut out brokers or sell customers extras they don't want.

"In my discussions with dealers, they could care less about that," he said. "Honestly, their biggest concern is liability. If something happens with the car, let's say the checklist isn't gone over and, for example, an infant is killed by an airbag. Who are they going to come back on?"

Well, you'd think if the liability is such a concern, car dealers wouldn't wait for a state law to stop such a dangerous practice. You'd think they wouldn't even need a law that pushes the consumer back into the waiting arms of the car dealer - just coincidentally, I'm sure.

There's an easy way to fix the problem if a car dealer doesn't want to bother with brokers and the customers they represent.

Just don't sell them cars.

Reach Roberts at or (602) 444-8635. Read her blog at

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