Though rocked by terrorist attacks and the death of its longtime leader, the National Automobile Dealers Association is making strides in four critical areas, said outgoing NADA Chairman Bob Maguire.
In his speech at the general session on Saturday, Maguire assured members that NADA is:
1. Coping with the death of former President Frank McCarthy.
2. Improving communications with the factories.
3. Scoring legislative points in Washington.
4. Improving NADA's contact with the press.
The death of McCarthy soon before he was to retire from his 33-year career as NADA's chief executive was a blow to the organization. But former industry relations chief Phillip Brady has taken the helm and has "exceeded expectations in the short time he has been president," Maguire said.
Although the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks disrupted car sales and travel, Maguire continued to emphasize face-to-face meetings with top factory executives
"It gave me the opportunity to deliver common-sense messages about fairness and a better business approach," he said.
NADA lobbied successfully for the phaseout of estate taxes and the overturning of federal regulations on ergonomics that it said would have cost dealers money, Maguire said.
Though NADA's top legislative priority - a ban on mandatory binding arbitration - did not pass last year, NADA obtained a concession from one of the chief opponents, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
"We opened a new dialogue," Maguire said. "This dialogue eventually led to a statement from the alliance saying that it would no longer oppose voluntary arbitration. As a result, the debate has shifted in our favor."
Dealing with the press has been a challenge for car dealers, but NADA obtained good publicity for the industry. For example, "NBC Nightly News" broadcast a special feature on the shortage of auto technicians.
Maguire pointed to the 2002 convention as proof that NADA and its members are up to stiff challenges now and in the future.
Terrorist attacks cut short NADA's Washington conference, which met Sept. 11. The attacks led NADA to move up its convention by a week to accommodate the Super Bowl. But NADA negotiated an agreement with the National Football League that reimbursed the dealer group for the date change and gave NADA the opportunity to promote car dealers' contributions to their communities during televised NFL games.