The question of who is allowed to own an automobile dealership in Texas is surprisingly confusing — even for the state agency that’s supposed to answer it.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which enforces the complex regulations, has twice asked for legal clarifications from the attorney general’s office in the past year, and it also is proposing simplifications to an oversight board charged with crafting legislation for 2019 to help it run more effectively.
Meanwhile, the DMV has long-running enforcement proceedings underway against two major companies — Forest River Inc. parent Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Cummins Inc. — for potentially violating the rules.
The motor vehicle department “has been presented with progressively more complicated corporate ownership structures to evaluate,” the agency wrote in a report last fall, in which it raised the possibility of simplifying the rules to more precisely define the term “own,” among other potential changes.
If adopted by state lawmakers during next year’s legislative session, the simplifications could render moot the department’s findings against both Berkshire Hathaway and Cummins.
Such a move is likely to get pushback, however, because the politically powerful Texas Automobile Dealers Association wants a crackdown on Cummins even as it has rallied around Berkshire Hathaway. In addition, the changes wouldn’t help Tesla Inc., which is prohibited by the law from selling its electric cars directly to Texas consumers and has fought the auto dealers association over the issue for years.