Become an advocate for auto retailing, Charlie Gilchrist, outgoing NADA chairman, urged dealers Saturday.
"Our identity as dealers is unique," said Gilchrist, president of Gilchrist Automotive, which sells 10 brands at nine dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And strengthening that identity, he said, "means stepping up when there's a labor shortage around the country and a technician shortage inside our walls. It means fighting for a franchise system and taking advantage of a wave of new technology and change.
"It means holding our ground when Washington threatens our stability so our employees and customers have security. And it means doing it together because one dealer can accomplish some things, but many dealers together can accomplish anything," he said.
Despite the buzz around industry disruption and emerging mobility concepts that could be a threat to traditional auto retailing, Gilchrist said the franchise system is strong and dealers' future is bright. More than 500 dealership employees graduated from the NADA Academy in 2019, he noted, and NADA 20 Groups had 3,000 members.
"This means we have hundreds of dealers and managers better trained and better equipped to meet the demands of the future," Gilchrist said.
With Gilchrist as chairman, NADA fought for the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, stressed vehicle affordability, offered solutions for dealership technician shortages and provided dealers with a compliance guide for selling vehicle protection products.
"We hold ourselves and others accountable" for the future of the industry, Gilchrist said. He encouraged dealers to join a 20 Group, send employees to the NADA Academy, work with elected officials and develop a relationship with automakers.
"If you are an auto dealer, if you work in a dealership, our imprint on America is unmistakable," said Gilchrist. "Our contributions are undeniable, and our potential is immeasurable. We are the auto dealers of America, and we are NADA."