As Ford Motor Co. and other automakers experiment in alternative retailing, the National Automobile Dealers Association vows to monitor them to make certain no dealership has an unfair advantage.
That was the primary message offered to dealers and manufacturers by Paul Holloway, NADA's 1998 chairman, during his opening address at the annual NADA convention.
NADA recognizes that a consolidation is under way in the industry, and Ford's venture with dealers in Tulsa, Okla., is just one example, he said.
In Tulsa, a handful of dealers sold their stores to the Tulsa Auto Collection. Ford owns 40 percent of the new venture, and the dealers own the rest.
Holloway said dealers have the right to sell their dealerships to any qualified buyer, including any of the new entities.
He noted, however, that NADA has a set of core values, and one of them is that no dealership should have an unfair advantage.
'Whether the manufacturer has a minority or majority interest in the new company, there is the opportunity for favored treatment,' Holloway said. 'This puts added pressure on these ventures to avoid even the appearance of receiving any advantages.'
He said NADA will monitor, investigate and aggressively pursue any reasonable claim of unfair treatment, whether related to distribution, wholesale and retail financing, advertising, pricing, incentives, information flow or location of satellite service centers.
'NADA remains firmly committed to a free marketplace and a level playing field for all dealers,' he said.
On other topics, Holloway said:
Average net dealership profits improved 20 percent over 1997, making 1998 one of the best years ever for the automobile business.
To meet the need for more training at the dealership, NADA is launching the SkyLink broadcast system, which will deliver training and industry news to dealerships via satellite 'at a very reasonable cost.'
NADA has revamped its salesperson certification program. It now is presented on CD-ROM, so a dealership's sales staff can complete it in the dealership or at home and can take the test online.
NADA's Dealer Optimism Index, though still pretty good, reflects some unrest and uneasiness, dropping from 144 in January 1998 to 127 at the end of 1998. Some of this decreased optimism stems from manufacturers' intentions to reduce the number of dealer points.