Ray Cohen told me he would never forgive Ralph Nader for running for president because he figured that's what gave the presidency to George W. Bush.
I don't know if Nader and Cohen were close, though they traveled in similar political circles.
Cohen, a one-time Dodge dealer, was a lifelong supporter of liberal causes who -- like Nader -- was a vocal critic of automakers. But while Nader began his crusade attacking safety problems, Cohen's prime issue was what he considered the lousy way automakers treat their dealers.
So it's ironic that the 84-year-old Cohen died earlier this month, just days before Chrysler terminated 789 franchises as part of its bankruptcy restructuring. Had he still been a dealer, you can bet that Cohen and his dealership would have been goners.
Even after he got out of the new-car business -- nearly 30 years ago -- he founded a dealer association to champion dealer causes. But support flagged.
So he became publisher of Automotive Dealers Digest newsletter. That allowed Cohen to get press credentials, which gave him access to industry events and allowed him to champion dealers and dealer causes in a new medium.
Don't get the wrong idea: He was not a rah-rah kind of guy who thought dealers could do no wrong. Cohen regularly criticized dealers who behaved badly toward customers.
"The dealer is doing a disservice to himself and the consumer when he sells a car to someone who can't afford it, or when he loads up the deal with add-ons he can't afford," Cohen told me in 1988 when I was preparing an article on some of the abusers of subprime financing.
The last time I saw Cohen was at an NADA convention. By that point in his career Cohen was doing the newsletter and had a couple of other ventures involving used cars and rental vehicles.
After that, we used to talk from time to time when he read something in Automotive News that set him off.
It's been several years now since I spoke to Ray Cohen. But I'll bet he forgave Ralph Nader.