WASHINGTON -- Montana dealer William Underriner stands to be the sixth consecutive chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association to hail from west of the Mississippi River.
NADA's board of directors last week elected him to be the association's 2011 vice chairman, putting him in line for the group's top post in 2012.
As expected, next year's chairman will be Utah dealer Stephen Wade, who has been vice chairman this year. Wade will succeed Ed Tonkin of Oregon in February at the association's convention in San Francisco.
Wade said one of his top priorities next year will be making sure that rules to be created by the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau do not hurt dealers.
"It's the regulatory unknown we're dealing with," he said. "We're not out of the woods yet."
The new agency, part of the Federal Reserve Board, was created by the sweeping financial regulatory legislation signed by President Barack Obama in July. This month Obama appointed Harvard University law Professor Elizabeth Warren, a consumer advocate, as an adviser to get the new agency off the ground.
In overseeing consumer financial products such as mortgages and credit cards, the bureau will have authority to regulate the 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. But 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.
Wade, 67, has been a dealer since 1973. He owns four stores with nine domestic and foreign brands on 25 acres in St. George, Utah.
Underriner, 58, of Billings, Mont., is president and co-owner of Underriner Motors, which has Buick, Jeep, Volvo, Honda and Hyundai franchises. He has been in the auto business since 1984 and has been a member of the NADA board since 2001.
Other recent NADA leaders from west of the Mississippi include Iowa's John McEleney, who was chairman in 2009. He was preceded by Annette Sykora of Texas in 2008 and Dale Willey of Kansas in 2007.