Foreign automakers brace for battles as U.S. election looms
AIADA Chairman Ray Mungenast: “If recent history is any indication, what we have ahead of us is a battle,”
LAS VEGAS -- AIADA Chairman Ray Mungenast isn't as confident as others that 2012 will be a smooth year for manufacturers -- at least not in Washington.
As the election season kicks into high gear, the spotlight is likely to fall on the auto industry and that could mean more legislative battles ahead for the foreign brands, Mungenast said, speaking here Monday at the American International Automobile Dealers Association luncheon.
"If recent history is any indication, what we have ahead of us is a battle," Mungenast said. The association must continue legislative battles over taxes and labor, as well as fight increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
"Our nation is at a divide. Our Congress is divided. Our politics are divided," Mungenast said. "In 2012, those divides will be sharper than ever."
Dealers, especially younger ones, must get involved to protect their business and the industry at large, Mungenast added.
He called for bringing in "new blood and fresh ideas" to the association. "That means reaching out to dealers who think politics don't have anything to do with their business," he said.
Mungenast, 50, has made recruiting younger dealers to AIADA a key goal of his term. He also wants to encourage dealers to build stronger relationships with their local elected officials.
He replaces outgoing chairman, Jim Smail, who also spoke at the luncheon and took President Barack Obama to task for giving the foreign brands a cold shoulder at the Washington, D.C., auto show last week.
At the show, Obama stopped by exhibits for Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler Group, but left before visiting any of the Asian brands.
"He never visited a single one of our brands," Smail said in his farewell address. "That just pisses me off."
Last week, Mike Stanton, chief executive of Global Automakers, expressed similar frustration. Global Automakers represents the U.S. divisions of 15 foreign manufacturers.
A St. Louis native, Mungenast runs his family's auto group along with his two brothers. Mungenast Automotive Family owns five auto dealerships and one motorsports store in the St. Louis and Alton, Ill., areas.
His father, Dave Mungenast Sr., founded the dealership group in 1965 and also served as AIADA chairman in 1998.