Nobody has clout like NADA's
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
Once again this year, the National Automobile Dealers Association put on a convention that was full of great things.
Fiat and Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne opened the convention with some stirring thoughts on fuel economy, and former President George W. Bush closed it with a powerful message focusing on the importance of the auto bailouts. You couldn't ask for better speakers to open and close the convention.
The No. 1 topic of conversation during the convention -- and one that will continue throughout the year -- was the challenge of dealership-improvement programs.
It's a thorn in just about everybody's side. The factories might not be aware how irritating the renovation programs are to dealers -- large and small. And it doesn't seem to matter who pays for the renovation programs. In many cases, it's the factory that is footing the bill; in other cases the dealer has to shell out the money.
It's important to understand, however, that an automobile retailer isn't the same as a McDonald's franchise.
Another hot topic of conversation focused on the issues with Washington and state legislators.
Whether you're talking about tax issues or regulatory issues, dealers are overwhelmed by regulations that are stifling their businesses.
The only folks from the automobile industry that Washington or state legislators will listen to are car dealers. The power that car dealers have among legislators and regulators is remarkable.
It's obvious that Washington doesn't listen to anyone else.
Automobile dealers seem to think with a single mind. Thousands of entrepreneurs are of the same economic and political persuasion.
It's a subtle hammer that is in the hands of automobile dealers. It is in the best interest of the industry and the dealer to wield that power a little more often.
The convention showed that this business is filled with great passion and power. It was, as always, a very good week.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.