It was good to see AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson shake hands with Dave Power at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable on Friday. And it was gratifying to see former NADA Chairman Alan Starling extend his hand to Power during a brunch reception Sunday morning.
Both Jackson and Starling were early critics of Power for his comments about the future of automotive retailing in an opinion column that was published in the Oct. 28 issue of The Wall Street Journal.
Power infuriated dealers by suggesting that automotive retailing was moving toward a Wal-Mart model and Jackson took exception to Power's comment that distribution costs, including retail rebates, account for 30 percent of the price of a car.
Power must have felt like a pinata these past few days.
Since last fall, he has absorbed a lot of criticism, including some from dealers who have exhorted other retailers to stop participating in enterprises of J.D. Power and Associates, such as the Power Information Network, which collects sales data from dealers. Other critics, especially Ford dealers, have tried to convince their factories to stop using J.D. Power and Associates as suppliers to customer satisfaction or certification programs.
It gets worse.
Last week, just days before the convention opened, The Wall Street Journal finally published an opinion column that Jackson had submitted last fall. It reopened the topic.
Power escaped serious criticism at his own roundtable, though there were some lighthearted jabs during the panel discussion with dealers.
But at social functions, dealers continued to vent. And at the convention's opening general session, both Starling and Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche took whacks at Power's views in their speeches.
Starling said that he approached Power on Sunday because he wanted him to know that there was nothing personal in his criticism.
When asked about his meeting with Power, Jackson shrugged it off and said that he and Power remain on speaking terms. "It's history,'' he said.