The new chairman of NADA wants dealers to approach their operations and the industry with a "clean sheet of paper," asking how they would redesign both to be better if given the opportunity.
Paul Walser's answer? He would build a far more diverse dealer body, one that works in an improved and customer-based relationship with automakers, and one with politically active and engaged members.
Walser, 65, has been a dealer since he opened a Chevrolet store in 1985. He is a partner in Walser Automotive Group, which is headquartered in Minneapolis and has 27 stores in Minnesota, Kansas, California and Illinois.
In his opening remarks at the NADA Show, Walser used a clean sheet of paper to challenge members to think about the association and their roles as dealers in a different way, especially after a life-altering pandemic.
"The truth is, we don't live in the same world we used to," Walser told his virtual audience. "We need to get better, and we need to get stronger."
He plans to focus this year on improving diversity, and he called on members not only to hire and promote minority job candidates, but to help them become dealers and partners.
"If we can become an industry that reflects the rich diversity all around us, it will elevate our value in the business community and our credibility in the political environment," Walser said. "Who's going to attack an industry that encompasses everyone?"
He also said dealers and automakers must reexamine their relationships and change the way they operate. Consumers want just three things: speed, transparency and control.
"We are not the Amazon of the industry and we don't pretend to be. But people don't want to spend four hours, understanding the price of a car," Walser said, saying that dealers must demand simplified incentives.
Walser also laid out the importance of being politically active and building relationships no matter who holds elected office. "It will make a difference one day," he said.