Once upon a time, you had to be a franchised new-car dealer to be a member of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Not any more.
The association has created a sustaining-member category for NADA members who have lost their new-vehicle franchises this year but are still in business as used-car dealers.
It's a way for dealers rejected by General Motors and Chrysler and without other franchises to stay close to the business.
Many of these are vestiges of the old single-point, mom-and-pop operations that used to be the foundation of the retail automobile business in America.
John Lyboldt, NADA vice president in charge of dealership operations, says it's just for members in good standing in the current dues year. Lyboldt doesn't know how many qualify but says it's a small number. By Friday, only about 20 had signed up.
For NADA, it's a way to keep the former new-car dealers part of the association's extended family -- you know, sort of like your brother-in-law still wanting to hang out with you after your little sister divorces him.
For former dealers, it's a way to stay connected ... just in case other franchises become available.
You never know, some Chinese or Indian automaker may come to town wanting to build a distribution network with rejected GM and Chrysler dealers.
Or maybe there will be some kind of wondrous settlement among NADA, Congress, the White House, GM and Chrysler that will allow some of the rejected dealers to get their franchises back.
Being rejected by GM or Chrysler was hard for a lot of dealers. To then be unceremoniously drummed out of NADA would cause more pain.
As sustaining members, they'll still be able to get discounts on training, education and industry events, not to mention the association's many publications.
It's the right thing to do for the same reason you're still nice to that guy who used to be married to your little sister: You never know, she may have a change of heart and take the guy back.