Don't look now, but there could be a turf war shaping up between the two biggest associations that represent U.S. car dealers.
That's because the National Automobile Dealers Association and the American International Automobile Dealers Association are at odds over political action committees.
So far, NADA and AIADA officials have been gentlemanly and ladylike in their comments. But the dispute goes to the heart of whether there any longer needs to be two associations, let alone two PACs.
For years, NADA's Dealers Election Action Committee has been a strong player, doling out political contributions to the association's friends.
AIADA hasn't had its own PAC. The Automotive Free International Trade PAC was launched years ago by early AIADA stalwarts, but the AFIT-PAC isn't officially affiliated with AIADA, even though the two organizations share financial backers and sometimes even share directors.
Now, AIADA's board wants its own PAC that can be a direct contributor to politicians, believing that will make the association more visible as one of the big boys in Washington.
NADA officials and others industry officials have asked the import dealers not to do it. They fear a third dealer PAC will create confusion among dealers and legislators as well as siphon off funds.
AIADA officials have shown no inclination to give in.
They say it's always better to have another voice representing dealers, who are free to donate to as many PACs as they choose as long as they don't inadvertently sign check-off forms to allow more than one PAC to solicit from them, which would be illegal.
Neither association likes the idea of this growing into a full-blown public dispute.
But now that AIADA has taken a stand, backing down would make the import dealers' group seem wimpy and subservient to NADA. If that happens, it's all over for AIADA.
That's why this could turn into a donnybrook.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]