NADA has launched an exhibit to encourage dealers to promote safety behind the wheel. "Dealers Driving Road Safety" focuses on three issues: child passenger safety, safe teen driving and rural driving safety.
Three dealership groups that have been involved in various auto safety programs are on hand at the show to talk to their peers about their initiatives:
1. Annette Sykora, dealer principal of Smith South Plains in Levelland, Texas, will address child passenger safety.
2. Susan Scarola, vice chairman of DCH Auto Group of South Amboy, N.J., will discuss safe teen driving.
3. Bill Underriner, owner of Underriner Motors in Billings, Mont., will talk about rural driving safety.
"The basic concept is for dealer groups who are already participating in safety programs to show their fellow dealers how they can begin similar programs in their own communities," said Andy Koblenz, NADA's vice president of legal and regulatory affairs.
Scarola said her company has been using cause marketing to build a positive dealership brand image. It wanted to focus on a single cause, and teen driving safety generated the most enthusiasm among employees and customers.
Company research found that auto crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. teenagers. DCH works with schools to raise awareness and sponsors local chapters of SADD -- Students Against Destructive Decisions.
SADD is a peer-led group with chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges that aims to prevent underage drinking, impaired driving, substance abuse, violence and suicide. It was founded as Students Against Driving Drunk in 1981 and expanded its mission in 1997.
"With the budget cuts the schools and local governments are facing, more people are looking to corporate America to pick up the slack," says Roy Bavaro, DCH's director of corporate marketing and brand development.
One of DCH's latest public service advertising pitches warned teens against driving while "intexticated" -- that is, driving while texting.
Larry Light, a Delray Beach, Fla., marketing consultant, helped DCH shape its brand marketing strategy. "Involvement in charity is one way to build trust," Light says.
Support for a cause also can make employees proud to work for the company. If employees are happy, they provide better service and further reinforce a strong brand, he says.
Scarola says the company wanted to choose a charity that was related to the automobile business and meaningful to employees.
Says Scarola: "This cause fits all the criteria." c