Dave Power's comments about the future of the franchise system might be a sub-plot at this year's convention. Power made his remarks in an opinion column that appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 28.
The column touched off a firestorm of criticism from dealers and some automakers. And dealers are still talking about it.
But two other issues are bubbling up more frequently in conversations: The drive to overhaul customer satisfaction surveys, and the fear that F&I profits - especially finance reserves - are in jeopardy.
On Friday, Fritz Hitchcock, CEO of Hitchcock Automotive Resources in City of Industry, Calif., and an NADA board member, asked manufacturers to join the fight to protect finance reserves during remarks at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable.
Hitchcock referred to published reports that said General Motors Acceptance Corp. is close to settling a class-action lawsuit by restricting the finance reserve income that dealers earn for arranging a loan for a customer. GMAC, like most reputable lenders, allows dealers to mark up loans up to 3 percentage points.
There also is buzz on the cocktail circuit here about CBS' "60 Minutes" TV program preparing to air another expose of dealership abuses, this time involving a UnitedAuto Group dealership in Memphis, Tenn.
This could add fuel to the drive by some states to severely restrict finance reserves or replace them with a flat fee, such as the California ballot initiative to set a flat fee of $150 for each loan arranged.
And if that's not bad enough, many dealers are grumbling that service contract income has tailed off following last year's collapse of National Warranty Insurance Co.
Meanwhile, dealers who say that customer satisfaction surveys need to be overhauled got a boost from J.D. Power partner Chris Denove on Thursday at the J.D. Power conference.
Denove said automakers should:
There wasn't a dry eye in the house.