WASHINGTON -- Utah dealer Stephen Wade was voted 2011 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association and Montana dealer William Underriner was elected vice chairman, putting him in line for the top post in 2012.
Wade's election by the NADA board on Tuesday was expected. He has been vice chairman this year, and will succeed current chairman Ed Tonkin in early February at the association's annual convention in San Francisco, an NADA spokesman said today.
Underriner, 58, of Billings, Mont., owns Buick, Jeep and Volvo dealerships and has been on the NADA board since 2001, association spokesman Charles Cyrill said.
Wade, 67, said one of his top priorities next year would be making sure that rules to be created by the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau do not adversely affect dealers.
“It's the regulatory unknown we're dealing with,” he said. “We're not out of the woods yet.”
The new agency, which is part of the Federal Reserve Board, was created by the sweeping financial regulatory legislation signed by President Obama in July.
In overseeing consumer financial products such as mortgages and credit cards, the bureau will have authority to regulate financing of consumers' auto purchases provided by banks, credit unions and other lenders.
Dealers that assist in this financing are exempted from bureau oversight by the new law.
However, Wade said it's still conceivable that the new agency would prepare regulations that affect dealers, starting in the second half of next year.
“I don't think any of us understands this,” he said.
Obama last week appointed Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, a consumer advocate, as an adviser to get the new agency off the ground.
Her appointment “worries us,” Wade said.
Wade, a dealer since 1973, owns four stores with nine domestic and foreign brands on 25 acres in St. George, Utah.
He drew criticism from a number of terminated dealers when he accepted a Chrysler franchise last December after a nearby competitor's store was taken away as part of the automaker's bankruptcy.
Rejected Chrysler dealers, including fellow NADA board member Tamara Darvish, said Wade should have waited to see the outcome of arbitration filed by the competing dealership, Painter Sun Country Chrysler.
Painter lost its bid for reinstatement last summer after the arbitrator found that its rural market wasn't big enough for two dealerships.
Wade said in a newspaper interview last year that other dealers from outside the state might have taken the franchise if he didn't.