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Guest opinion: VW scandal is just a symptom of a wider inequality and unfair business practices

Sue Robinson, NFDA

Last week I attended the European Car Dealers' conference in Brussels with our legal counsel (Miles Trower of TLT). 

Senior representatives of the EU Commission and the manufacturer body, ACEA, were present. 

Aside from the Volkswagen crisis and the potential liability to different regulators and its customers, including its dealers, the National Franchised Dealers Association argued that whatever the eventual outcome, an important question is whether the current situation is simply a symptom of a sector where the most powerful companies in the supply chain are persistently indulged by those that regulate them. 

This extends to the topic of unfair trading practices where the benign treatment of manufacturers over recent years by EU and domestic governments has further distorted the imbalance in power between manufacturers and their major customers, dealers. 

If this imbalance continues to be left unchecked, and action is confined to emissions testing and compliance, it is inevitable that other abuses will not be addressed. 

We have to remember that it has taken six years and the intervention of a non-EU agency for this crisis to come to light. 

A climate of fear and uncertainty is not an unusual feature of dealer/manufacturer relations. 

If EU governments have a genuine desire to make the sector better for the consumer, and more efficient and transparent, they need to take a wider perspective and focus on a range of measures beyond simple emissions.

Meaningful and immediate action on business-to-business unfair trading practices would be one of a number of steps in the right direction. 

Author: Sue Robinson (pictured), NFDA director

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