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Auto Dealers Mourn Clarence Ditlow from Center for Auto Safety

Posted by Andrew Donahey | Tue, Nov 22, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

Who? What? Clarence Ditlow? Auto dealers mourning? OK, maybe not mourning, but even the most cynical, hardened, multi-location, millions-of-units-selling auto dealer veteran has a professional appreciation for the contributions of Clarence Ditlow. What's ironic is that very few know who he was, let alone the fact that in some ways he single-handedly saved, and will continue to save, millions of lives on American roadways.Men in Auto Dealer Showroom.jpg

Who is Clarence Ditlow?

Clarence Mintzer Ditlow III was born on January 26, 1944 in Louisville, Georgia. He was raised in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania where his father was a service manager at a Chevrolet dealership.

Ditlow was educated as an engineer and a lawyer, attending Lehigh University in nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1965 with a degree in chemical engineering and immediately went to work with the US Patent Office for the next five years. During his employment with the USPTO, he joined "Nader's Raiders" as a volunteer. He went on to earn law degrees from both Georgetown University and Harvard University. In 1976 Ditlow became the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, and that's where our article picks up.

How Did Clarence Ditlow Save Lives?

Simply stated, by calmly and deliberately putting motorist safety before profits.

As the executive director for the Center of Auto Safety, he ferreted out vehicle failure, engineering flaws, auto industry management neglect and lack of governmental regulation over a four-decade period.

Under Mr. Ditlow, the Center for Auto Safety was at the forefront of motorist safety as evident by:

  • Pushing for safety recalls of tens of millions of vehicles saving untold thousands of lives, including:
    • auto dealers6.7 million Chevrolets for defective engine mounts
    • 15 million Firestone 500 tires
    • 1.5 million Ford Pintos for exploding gas tanks 
    • 3 million Evenflo child seats
    • 7 million Toyotas for sudden acceleration
    • 2 million Jeeps for fuel tank fires
    • 11 million GM vehicles for defective ignition switches
    • 60 million faulty Takata airbag inflators
  • The creation of Lemon Laws in all 50 states
  • The drop in motorist death rates from 5.2 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1969 to 1.1 per 100 million vehicle miles in 2010
  • The formation of the Safe Climate Campaign advocating for more efficient, lower polluting vehicles
  • The passing of the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
  • The establishment of the first Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards
  • The disclosure to consumers of automotive technical service bulletins
  • Books he authored or co-authored include: The Lemon Book, Lemon Law Litigation Manual, Little Secrets of the Auto Industry and Sudden Acceleration.

Are Auto Dealers Really Mourning the Loss of Clarence Ditlow?

auto dealersThat's hard to say without empirical evidence, but if they aren't mourning his loss, they should be. With attacks on the modern auto dealership myriad, the death of a champion of motorist safety should be seen as a loss for the entire auto industry, particularly for auto dealers looking to instill trust in consumers who are rightly concerned with emissions scandals, airbag scandals, and at the root of it, being able to safely transport families.

If a manufacturer makes a mistake, consumers want to know their dealership will help take responsibility for the OEM's shortcoming. The auto dealership that does this efficiently is very likely to earn that consumer's business beyond one car purchase. Essentially, the auto dealership is giving the consumer a guarantee that the car they sell will transport consumers safely at any cost when the root of the problem is the manufacturer.

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Joe Blow walks in off the street and wants to write your dealership a down payment check for a total of $3,000. You don't know him from boo and you're concerned his check may be returned by the bank. If that happens, not only will you be chasing lost profits for months to come, your staff will lose time trying to track down the car, the consumer and payments. If you had a check guarantee service in place, you'd take that check and never look back because we guarantee the payment to you. We know, magic! Interested in learning more? If so, click below:

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Topics: Auto Dealerships

Written by Andrew Donahey

Marketing Director Andrew Donahey leads a dedicated group of digital marketing specialists that generates relevant content for the financial services sector. He also collects vintage “anything” and has a Golden Retriever kennel.