WASHINGTON -- Marianne McInerney is out as president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. But the controversy she generated among car dealers and other industry groups remains.
And the storms that surrounded her at AIADA may not be over, either.
McInerney, 42, abruptly quit last week after nearly three years as president of the import-brand dealers' group. In an interview, McInerney said she is considering jobs related to and outside of the auto industry. She would not elaborate.
McInerney said she is leaving AIADA in better shape than when she arrived. "I'm very proud of what I've done," she said.
AIADA Chairman Don Hicks said association leaders still intend to develop the political action committee McInerney vigorously sought. Hicks said he also hopes that AIADA finds someone like McInerney to replace her.
McInerney replaced longtime AIADA President Walter Huizenga. She had experience in Republican political campaigns, in some government agencies and with other associations, none of them automotive.
AIADA needs a president with "her energy, her political savvy and her communication skills," Hicks told Automotive News.
His remarks affirmed prepared statements from AIADA. But McInerney drew heavy fire elsewhere.
Jack Taylor, a Toyota dealer in Alexandria, Va., called the accolades for McInerney "spin, froth and deception" that nearly made him sick.
"The woman has damn near done everything in her power to destroy the association," Taylor said. Under McInerney, he asserted, AIADA's relationship with the National Automobile Dealers Association reached "an all-time low."
Taylor is a longtime activist among import-brand dealers. But he quit AIADA last July. He remains on the board of the Automotive Free International Trade Political Action Committee, or AFIT PAC. Since 1991, the independent committee has collected dealer money for congressional candidates who favor free trade.
Dissatisfaction with what some AIADA leaders called AFIT PAC's narrow focus led them to form AIADA's PAC. The committee launched in January.
McInerney pressed hard for the PAC. She argued that AIADA could lobby Congress more effectively if lawmakers and their staffers recognized AIADA officials as people who brought checks to fundraisers.
The PAC divided AIADA board members, causing some to quit. It strained AIADA's relations with NADA and other industry groups. NADA's PAC raises and distributes more than $2 million a year for political campaigns.
The path ahead
Some critics say the PAC controversy reflects deeper troubles at AIADA. But Hicks, owner of Shortline Automotive Inc., of Aurora, Colo., blamed the criticism on advocates of the status quo who resist change.
Hicks denied claims by sources that officers forced McInerney out. To the contrary, he said, AIADA directors had agreed to give her a new three-year contract with a raise.
An IRS form filed by nonprofit groups shows that in 2004, AIADA paid McInerney a salary of $184,000.
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]