By Stephanie See, AEM Director, State Government and Industry Relations
When many people think about AEM’s advocacy work, they think of Washington, D.C. and Congress – and rightly so.
But so much of the policy that affects our industry now plays out in state capitols across the country, which is why AEM’s Board of Directors identified state-level advocacy as a strategic priority. I was proud to join AEM late last year to support this vital function.
One of the first issues I started to work on was dealer contract legislation. While this issue might not seem the most compelling to elected officials, it strikes at the foundation of AEM members’ businesses: the ease with which they bring their goods to market.
Dealer legislation can be brought up in a legislature for a number of reasons, and this legislative session, we’ve seen it in five states, for several different reasons. The legislation can also vary from state to state. For example:
- An Alaska bill focuses on warranties, and would unnecessarily burden manufacturers. Supporters rationalize these provisions by pointing to the size and remote nature of the state, ignoring the fact that AEM members deliver equipment to challenging locales all over the world.
- A bill in Oregon is more comprehensive—dealing with allowing competitive lines to be sold in the same dealership, inventory requirements, warranty reimbursement, and areas of responsibility. The legislation also brings in new groups such as power equipment, and ATVs. AEM recently convinced Oregon Senate leadership that the content of this bill deserved further consideration, and the bill was tabled for this session.
- An Idaho bill dealt with a change in competitive circumstances. That bill died in the Senate.
There were also bills in North Dakota (comprehensive bill that passed), and Montana (transfer of ownership bill that also passed).
Whether it is about warranty, buyback or other contractual provisions, our message is consistent and our efforts begin with trying to identify the motive behind the legislation and resolve issues without an expensive legislative battle.
Our message to legislators? Almost all equipment manufacturers distribute their products through independent dealers. Manufacturers and their dealers have developed close business relationships that have stood the test of time and the marketplace. The contracts that have evolved are a function of the type of products, the nature of their markets and their combined experience.
These mutually agreed-upon contracts are balanced to share the duties and responsibilities in such a way that both parties can make their best contributions toward a long-term relationship, to work out isolated disagreements and conflicts that may arise, and not to seek wide-sweeping legislative solutions.
That is why AEM is working to educate state lawmakers about the dangers posed by legislation that would disrupt these longstanding relationships.
AEM is now more active than ever in working to resolve this legislation. I have had the unique pleasure of working with a number of member companies and building upon existing relationships with dealer groups and other industry partners to help shape or even kill legislation that would harm equipment manufacturers and the 1.3 million American jobs that depend on our industry.
But the battle will not end here. I look forward to more lobbying on these bills on AEM’s behalf, working with dealer groups in the meanwhile to learn about the issues their members are facing, and working to explore positive solutions that benefit the entire equipment manufacturing industry.