An in-the-factory's-face dealer advocate.
Ron Tonkin, founder of Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships in Portland, Ore., was all of that and then some, according to family members and dealers who knew him and Automotive News, which chronicled his year as president of NADA.
Tonkin took on the leadership mantle at NADA in January 1989. He promptly and publicly accused automakers of encroaching on dealers' businesses by unfairly allowing car rental and fleet companies to buy vehicles below the dealer wholesale price.
He ended his term in February 1990 with a lawsuit against the Big 3, Toyota and several rental-car companies over those subsidies. The suit was eventually settled out of court. Tonkin spent the months in between defending the dealer franchise system against automakers' use of retail rebates, customer satisfaction indexes and mandatory ad associations and fees. He charged factories with shoving unwanted inventory down dealers' throats and blamed them for dealers' dwindling profits.