After beating out three other dealers for the job, Ron Tonkin takes charge at NADA's convention in New Orleans. His speech rails against fleet subsidies and other automaker programs that, he says, hurt dealer profits.
Tonkin lists 205 dealers as his Rough Riders, a group of large-volume dealers who will stand united with NADA in urging factories to change their ways.
Several dealers named as Rough Riders, led by Roger Penske of Penske Automotive, say they either never agreed to join, don't want to participate or want to know more before joining the effort.
Tonkin distributes a cassette tape to dealers in which he discusses suing carmakers that sell to leasing companies in competition with franchised dealers.
In its first meeting, the Rough Riders steering committee sets its top priority: halting the factory practice of subsidizing fleet sales to vehicle leasing and rental companies.
Tonkin begins a 23-city tour, meeting small groups of dealers, journalists and local radio talk shows to get his message out: Dealers are the good guys, suffering at the hands of the automakers.
NADA, together with First Boston, considers creating a $2 billion finance company that would supply retail and wholesale financing for dealers.
The Rough Riders allege that factory-to-consumer rebates are contributing to "a nationwide decline in dealership profitability."
Tonkin warns that NADA could withhold its lobbying clout on issues crucial to carmakers unless the manufacturers make concessions on fleet subsidies and other practices that hurt dealership profits.
In an ad that runs in industry magazines, Tonkin urges dealers to slash their new-vehicle inventories to a 15-30 day supply to boost their profits, and calls for an end to mandatory advertising associations.