Lawton auto dealers react to "Big Three" bailout debate - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Lawton auto dealers react to "Big Three" bailout debate

Lawton_First, the "Big Three' wanted $25 billion - now, they're asking for more.  The CEOs of the big three U.S. automakers made their pitch to Congress on Thursday for a $34 billion rescue package so they will not have to file for bankruptcy.  Senator Chris Dodd says that doing nothing to help them would be like playing Russian Roulette with the entire economy, and two Lawton car dealers agree wholeheartedly.  They say the bailout is absolutely necessary.

The two dealers have a combined 70 years experience in their industry, and say this is definitely one of the toughest times ever in the dealership business.  They say the only thing worse was the oil shortage in the late 70s.  However, they also say they aren't feeling the pinch like others across the country. 

Whether we think it's fair or not, a collapse in the U.S. auto industry would likely affect all Americans in some way.  "When you start talking about laying off a quarter of a million people, the general economy - the national economy - is at stake here," said Dan Mullins.  "We do not want to rely on foreign automakers just as much as we rely on foreign oil," said Larry Battison.  "We need to have a domestic auto industry, so I think it's very important."

They say the economy relies too much on the "Big Three" and should be bailed out, even if it means spending your tax dollars to keep them afloat.  "It's almost got to happen at this juncture - too many people depend on it," said Mullins.  "The amount of cars, for example, that General Motors sells worldwide is astronomical," said Battison.  "There's no reason that company can not be very, very profitable.  They have got to cut out the fat, reorganize, and concentrate on the core products that make money."

Battison says the biggest problem dealers are currently battling is the credit crunch for their customers.  "Most everybody that could get a loan a year ago can get a loan today, but the interest rate may be higher," he said.  "It's tougher.  The amount they'll advance on a loan is different than it was a year ago."

Even though Dan Mullins earns his money by selling  import cars, he says our economy needs the "Big Three" - that loss would trickle down.  "People who make fuses, head lamps, batteries, and that sort of thing, there's no way the vendors can curtail their business to accommodate only the import dealers - or so-called transplants like Nissan, Toyota, Honda."

Still to be answered is the question how the car companies got into this situation to begin with.  Both dealers say there are a variety of reasons, but record high oil prices over the last couple of years had a lot to do with it.  Battison says it's important for people to realize that the three companies are asking for a loan - not a free bailout.  The head of Chrysler promised on Thursday to repay taxpayers by 2012.

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