Car dealers pitch for auto sector aid

Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:40pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Car dealers are heading for near-record sales this year but asked the federal government on Friday to help auto manufacturers and to make it easier for dealerships to get financing.

The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association told a news conference that their 3,500 dealers employ 140,000 people and they would bear the brunt of the economic impact if the big manufacturers were not provided bridge financing.

The association also said that while consumers in Canada -- in contrast with the United States -- continue to get adequate automobile financing, the dealers themselves are finding it tough to get financing for their operations.

"Predictable and accessible credit is the oil in the auto industry's motor. Any effort to support the banking sector must also be accompanied by a strong message that the banks must continue to support sound small businesses," said the group's president, Richard Gauthier.

Still, the industry faces the anomaly that dealers are heading for their second or third best year ever, Huw Williams, director of public affairs for the association, said.

They are on track to sell about 1.6 million new vehicles this year. The record is just above that level, he said.

Industry Minister Tony Clement visited the Big Three U.S. automobile companies in Detroit on Wednesday for talks on a possible rescue package, and discussed it further with officials and politicians in Washington on Thursday.

Ottawa has promised further support for the industry but has not determined how much and in what form.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)