With a Republican in the White House, dealers should expect to see progress in an area that has stagnated during the Clinton years: federal legislation.
"With a new president in the White House, the focus is on bipartisan cooperation," said Wells, owner of Wells Automotive in Whitesville, N.C. "There is a tremendous opportunity for real progress on the important issues facing our industry and our nation."
NADA could stand to score some points in the congressional arena after failing in recent years to get a national title branding bill, a ban on mandatory binding arbitration, Superfund restructuring and tax cuts.
Prospects for tax cuts, in particular, are looking up, since bills to phase out the estate tax and the marriage penalty were passed by Congress but vetoed by former President Clinton, Wells said at the opening session of the convention. He also said he believes NADA's drive to pass a bill banning mandatory binding arbitration in franchise agreements stands a better chance this year.
The election of President George Bush is just one of several reasons Wells is optimistic as he ends his term. NADA last year focused on four priorities -- government relations, industry relations, dealer services and public and legal affairs -- and saw improvements in each, he said.
Wells pointed to better dealer communications with the factories -- particularly General Motors -- and the launch of the NADA portal Driversseat.com, the shakeout among dealers' online competitors and the defeat of factory-owned dealerships.
"At last year's convention in Orlando, the focus was factory-owned stores," said Wells. "These initiatives broke a fundamental trust between dealers and manufacturers and directly threatened the franchise system. Thankfully, the large-scale factory store programs met the fate that surely awaits any ill-conceived program lacking meaningful dealer input."
And at the 2000 convention, online brokers also loomed as a potential threat to the franchise system. Not any more. "Ladies and gentlemen, your hard work, your entrepreneurial spirit proved false the misguided assumption that the Internet -- or anything else -- can ever replace the franchised dealer," Wells said.
While the Oldsmobile phaseout and the Ford Blue Oval Certification program were a kick in the teeth, Wells said, NADA is working with GM and Ford on both issues, and the factories have been willing to listen to the dealers' side of the story.
Even signs of a sales slowdown can't dampen Wells' enthusiasm: "Our red-hot sales have begun to cool, and there's growing concern about an economic soft landing. You all know the old saying: Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.