AIADA chief to zero in on international trade and estate tax
Second-generation Mercedes-Benz dealer Jenell Ross will be the 2013 chair of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, representing dealers with more than 10,000 import-brand franchises.
She says she will stress two of the organization's signature issues: international trade and the estate tax.
Ross, dealer principal at Bob Ross Auto Group in suburban Dayton, Ohio, knows well the second of those topics from personal experience.
She became her dealership group's vice president and dealer principal in 1997, at age 27, upon the death of her father, for whom the company is named.
She ran the Buick-GMC and Mercedes dealerships with her mother, Norma, until Norma Ross died in 2010. The following year, the group added a Fiat franchise.
Jenell Ross, 43, spoke with Staff Reporter Gabe Nelson.
Q. What are some of your goals in 2013?
A. Something that's very near and dear to me from personal experience is wanting to see permanent repeal of the death tax. From having two parents that have passed in the past 15 years, that's something that I've been an advocate for. Even though we've made some strides with regards to increases of exemptions and decreases of the tax rate, it's still something that necessitates a lot of work. Obviously, with AIADA, continuing to be an advocate for free trade and open markets. It's something of importance to us in order to maintain our relationships with manufacturers.
What did you learn from your personal experience with the estate tax?
If someone overplans, that can take a lot of resources that could have been used to renovate facilities, train people, add more people. My father planned halfway, and we were able to manage that situation. My mother came behind him and was consumed with making sure that we would be left in a much better situation.
What will be your approach to the estate tax in Washington?
Continuing to meet with members of Congress, as well as senators -- anyone I can come into contact with that has a voice in Washington -- and just explain the truly human standpoint of what the death tax can do to a business, a family.
On the trade front, do you see it getting easier or more difficult to import cars to the United States?
Right now it has been easier, but you never know when a concern can arise, so it's very important that our members stay on top of things and continue to work with the members of Congress to make sure they understand what the international nameplates mean to the U.S. We've made a lot of headway, but there's still more to be done. This is vital to our existence, to have those open markets and to have free trade.
Under the recent free trade deal with South Korea, the tariffs on imported cars and trucks will be phased out. Is that a sign of what could happen under trade deals with Japan and Europe?
It's definitely a possibility, even though there hasn't been a lot of traction there yet.
What do you expect to happen this year in trade negotiations, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks?
Even though you have the same administration, there are still a lot of balls in the air. I think over the next month or two we'll be able to have a better idea of just where things are going.
A few of the import brands, such as Honda, have started bringing more of their design and engineering to the United States. How does that affect your members?
That's definitely going to continue. The international nameplate brands see the opportunity, and for our members that continues to validate our existence and how the international nameplate dealers are becoming even more vital in the U.S. market.
What is your thinking on fuel economy standards?
AIADA is in support of an mpg mandate, and everyone is concerned with the climate and providing a better atmosphere for all of us. But it has to be something that's cost-effective in terms of achieving that mandate.
A lot of the international nameplate brands are in the front seat, but there's still a lot of work to be done, and cost is going to be a huge indicator over the next 10 to 12 years.
You have a Mercedes-Benz store, which has a different position from most automakers on the new fuel economy standards, for example. How will you reconcile your interests with the broader interests of AIADA members?
I understand that they could possibly have a different stance on something. At the same time, I'm in the position of representing all international nameplate brands. So there may be times when I have to wear two hats.
You can reach Gabe Nelson at email@example.com.