By Michael Lucci -
Cronyism in the car industry didn’t start with Chicago’s ongoing attempt to control ride-share companies. In 1982, big car dealerships successfully lobbied to ban their competitors from making Sunday car sales. A generation of car buyers has lost out because of it.
The obvious features of the law show that it was conceived of by established dealers with the goal of limiting competition and consumer choice.
- The law is blatantly anti-consumer and anticompetitive. Weekend days are prime shopping days. That’s when Illinoisans have the time to look around for a big-ticket item such as a car. Eliminating Sunday sales limits competition and shopping time. If dealers want a law restricting their work days, eliminating a weekday would be much less anti-consumer.
- It was sold as a way to promote attendance at church, and to attract a better caliber salesman. According to the Chicago Tribune, lobbyists who promoted banning Sunday sales said the law would attract a better-caliber salesman and a family-oriented man. The unwritten implication is that the rest of us who sometimes work on Sundays are lower-caliber and less family-oriented.
- The law reduces work hours – and not just for dealers. Reducing dealership work hours is one of the reasons dealers wanted the law, which seems ironic in a work-deprived state. More importantly, car purchasers are compelled to take time out of their workdays to do car shopping, because the law reduces weekend shopping time by 50 percent. In short – working consumers have to reduce their work hours so that dealers can reduce their work hours. This is nonsense.
- Dealerships were also given say over whether a competitor can open nearby. This additional nugget of cronyism comes from 815 ILCS 710/4(e)(8), and it allows an auto dealership to object to a manufacturer’s plans to establish another dealership of the same kind within 10 miles. The burden is then on the manufacturer to establish “good cause” for opening the new dealership. That’s like McDonald’s being given the power to decide whether a Wendy’s can open nearby. The two laws together make an obvious package of anti-consumer, anticompetitive cronyism.
- Applying a similar law to other consumer industries shows its absurdity. What if retailers, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores were legally barred from serving consumers on Sundays in the name of reducing competition for the bigger players and limiting consumer freedom?
The Sunday car-sale ban should be overturned by the General Assembly, as should be the law that empowers dealers to decide whether their competitors can open.
Michael Lucci is Director of Jobs & Growth at the Illinois Policy Institute