With a healthy economy and a business-friendly White House, it might be tempting for the National Automobile Dealers Association to go on cruise control.
The association should resist that urge. As dealers gather in Las Vegas for their annual convention, NADA's leadership should rededicate itself to an agenda of improvement.
Here is a sampling of issues:
Diversity: Some progress has been made, but incoming Chairman Charley Smith should encourage more dealers to train minorities as managers and service technicians. As minority managers gain experience, they will be strong candidates to acquire their own dealerships.
Ethics: All dealers should be encouraged to sign NADA's voluntary code of ethics. And the organization must put some teeth into it so consumers know they mean business.
Service contracts: The sudden failure of National Warranty last year left many dealers in the lurch when consumers brought vehicles in for repairs. NADA should find a way to help dealers evaluate those financial products - and the companies that market them.
Those issues are not susceptible to easy solutions. But
NADA and its new chairman can make a difference. Charley Smith begins his year as chairman from a position of strength.
The traditional dealership is under pressure to improve, but dealers no longer are viewed as Main Street's dinosaurs. The franchise system has survived all attacks. Factories seem inclined to look for ways to improve how they measure customer satisfaction. Business at America's dealerships is good, thanks to incentives. And new products are on the way.
There is plenty to celebrate as dealers gather in Las Vegas. But that should not be an excuse for complacency.