It's time for dealers of every stripe to reason together and close the widening rift caused by the American International Automobile Dealers Association's decision to launch its own political action committee.
AIADA's board created a firestorm when it approved plans for its PAC in November. Officials of the National Automobile Dealers Association, which has its own PAC, the Dealers Election Action Committee, criticized the decision. NADA says another dealer PAC could weaken the voice of dealers on political issues and perhaps cause legal problems if two separate retailer PACs try to solicit political contributions from dealers. AIADA discounts that argument.
Since November, officials of other industry groups and some of the manufacturers that support AIADA privately have criticized the plan, leaving AIADA standing alone.
Even AIADA is divided. Four of eight members of its executive committee have walked away. They include Bradley
Hoffman, who was in line to chair the association in 2008. Hoffman, co-chair of Hoffman Auto Group in East Hartford, Conn., resigned as an officer and member of AIADA.
It's hard to see how an AIADA PAC adds anything to dealers' political clout. Dealers concerned with free-trade issues can contribute to the Automotive Free International Trade PAC, which has operated since 1991 but is not controlled by AIADA.
If anything, the dissension has intensified the lack of clarity about AIADA's mission. It was founded to fight for free trade but now pursues more general dealer issues - such as abolition of the estate tax - already championed by NADA and DEAC on behalf of all dealers.
AIADA has created but not activated the PAC. Dealers and their associations must resolve the outstanding issues now, before the rift becomes permanent.