Tough times demand tough decisions.
No, not whether to order the pinot grigio or the Chianti at Antonio's tonight.
In case you haven't noticed, the question of whether the American International Automobile Dealers Association ought to have its own political action committee has been churning just below the surface all weekend.
AIADA registered its own PAC but hasn't activated it. For various reasons, NADA and some automakers have questioned the wisdom of adding another automotive PAC.
I know and respect dealers on each side, but the dispute has become a debilitating game of chicken. The AIADA board doesn't want to yield to NADA, and NADA isn't about to get out of the way.
Even AIADA's board is evenly split over the right thing to do.
So why not think outside the box?
Rather than waiting for one of the associations to crash and burn, they ought to sue for peace and find a way to work together. Permanently.
It's time to forge a merger, or maybe a federation.
AIADA was founded when Volkswagen was the most powerful importer and the Johnson administration imposed a 25 percent duty on imported pickups in retribution for a European duty on American poultry products.
Much has changed since then, but AIADA has staunchly fought for free trade, viewing itself as a volunteer fire department ready to hose down any spark of protectionism that might threaten the flow of products its members sell.
It's not clear whether that's necessary in this era of global companies that sell vehicles built in America, Europe and Asia.
But let's assume that kind of vigilance is still needed.
Why can't the volunteer firehouse be built on NADA land? AIADA could be like the American Truck Dealers, an organization within an organization. ATD, which comprises about 2,000 medium- and heavy-duty truck dealers, has its own officers and staffers, but is part of NADA.
The ATD chairman, who is elected every two years, is on the NADA board of directors and the executive committee.
And get this: ATD even holds its own convention.
Why wouldn't that work for AIADA?
With so many complex issues facing dealers, the PAC issue must unite dealers, not divide them.
This can't be about egos or turf wars. It must be based on what's best for dealers.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]