America's import dealer group will give its annual Automotive Congress in Washington more of an outside-the-Beltway focus than usual this year.
In addition to making the traditional lobbying pilgrimage to Capitol Hill, import dealers this year will hear presentations on public ownership; the 'retail revolution,' including new technology; and the future of the franchise system.
Other industry-related groups had similar agendas this year, including the National Automobile Dealers Association and the Consumer Bankers Association.
On-site registration begins Sunday, May 18, for the American International Automobile Dealers Association convention, which takes place May 19 and 20 at the J.W. Marriott. Appointments with congressional representatives are scheduled May 20.
Speakers on dealership-oriented topics include:
Yale Gieszl, executive vice president, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Dick Colliver, senior vice president, American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
Robert Thomas, president and CEO, Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A.
Fred Schwab, president and CEO, Porsche Cars North America Inc.
Jerry Pyle, president of Gulf States Toyota, an independent distributor.
Consultant Harry Dent Jr.
Not that Washington-oriented topics will be ignored. Speakers on those topics include:
Trent Lott, R-Miss., U.S. Senate majority leader, who will speak about a balanced federal budget and the capital gains and estate tax, two important topics for dealers.
Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who will offer an insider's view of Washington.
Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., keynote speaker at the annual awards banquet May 19.
Mickey Kantor, former secretary of commerce and U.S. trade representative, who will discuss what is ahead in U.S.-Japan trade.
Kantor would have been booed - or maybe worse - if he had come to the group's 1995 meeting. At that time, Kantor had just threatened to put a 100 percent tariff on 13 Japanese luxury cars.
One Lexus dealer wept at the 1995 meeting, begging Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for help in fighting the tariff. Gingrich gave the dealers short shrift, saying it would be politically unpopular to stand up for a group of luxury-car dealers.
The tariff was later dropped, in part because then-U.S. Ambassador Walter Mondale intervened. Mondale, a Minnesotan, is an old friend of then-AIADA chairman Kjell Bergh of Minneapolis.
This year's chairman is Charles Smith, a Houston dealer who also was involved in the fight against the tariff. Smith's franchises include Nissan, Acura, Suzuki, Mitsubishi Honda and Kia.