Here are snippets from last week's gathering in Washington of import-brand dealers and automobile industry officials for the American International Automobile Dealers Association Automotive Congress.
AIADA CONGRESS: From foot traffic to the French
Yale Gieszl, former top executive of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., was back again at AIADA's Washington conferences last week - but this time as a dealer.
Gieszl is the majority shareholder of Centennial Toyota of Las Vegas, a dealership that opened in August. He was awarded the franchise two years ago after his retirement from Toyota. Keyes Automotive Group of Van Nuys, Calif., operates the store.
"My perspective is the same," Gieszl said. "My heart is still with the factory."
Massachusetts dealer Chris Zammito, owner of Toyota of Dartmouth, Mass., was in Washington to show support for AIADA.
But the 37-year-old businessman admits that the agenda - dealing with the estate tax, fuel economy and revision of the laws on class-action lawsuits - left him a bit cold.
"How do you get customers through the door with confidence to buy?" Zammito said.
Maybe President Bush's tax cuts will help, he said, but "people just don't know what's around the corner."
Jim Press insists, "I am not now nor have I ever been a communist."
Why would the COO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. feel compelled to make such a declaration of loyalty to American principles?
His speech to a breakfast meeting of AIADA members and other industry officials took place in an ornate Senate hearing room that has been the site of some of the most dramatic and historic congressional hearings of the last half-century.
Press' allusion was to Sen. Joe McCarthy's search for "Reds" in government and the entertainment industry in the 1950s.
Remembering the Watergate hearings, AIADA Chairman-elect Buzz Rodland asked this about the current association chairman: "What did Tim Smith know and when did he know it?"
Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine and renowned tell-it-like-it-is speaker, had these insights for a crowd at an AIADA dinner:
About BMW's attempt to consolidate cabin controls into a single iDrive knob, "If it's not intuitive, it won't get used."
For companies that might try to duplicate Nissan's resurgence, "Just like President Bush, (you) can't rely on the French."
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