The Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association (WANADA) is proud to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017. WANADA has come a long way from 100 years ago, when a small group of auto dealers with dealerships in the city decided to form an association to work together on common interests, a few days before the U.S. entered World War I. Today, no dealerships remain within city limits and members face more home-grown challenges.
Challenges notwithstanding, over the years the Washington area has been one of the strongest new vehicle sales markets in the nation. No region is recession-proof, but the Washington metropolitan area does exceptionally well in poor economies, with its solid base of affluent, highly educated consumers. The population is growing, the economy is diversifying – it’s not just a government town anymore – and DC is consistently rated one of the most desirable places for young college graduates to start their career. Many young people decide to settle here and start families. As they do, they need cars – and auto dealers in the WANADA network are here to help.
Our members retail new cars, SUVs and trucks and offer a full complement of factory-authorized vehicle maintenance and collision repairs, supported by state of the art parts departments. WANADA’s dealer members also deliver the lion’s share of the region’s previously owned vehicles, many with the added benefit of manufacturer certification.
WANADA equips dealer staff by offering a variety of training opportunities: technician training at area colleges through the Automobile Dealer Education Institute (ADEI), training for Finance & Insurance professionals and dealer briefings on pressing government relations matters, such as the best way to respond to the auto finance guidelines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. WANADA also helps its members respond to government initiatives such as the massive recall of Takata airbags.
One of WANADA’s major initiatives is the annual Washington Auto Show. Known on the auto show circuit as the public policy show, the Auto Show is a venue where manufacturers bring their newest high-tech offerings and government officials roam the aisles to see the latest in alternative fuel vehicles or cars with autonomous features. In 2017, the Auto Show debuted MobilityTalks, a daylong event with speaker panels and technology demonstrations.
I am proud to be chairman of one of the strongest auto dealer associations in the nation. Like any number of dealers around the region and Beltway. I love being part of the automobile business, and I am proud to be affiliated with WANADA and the unparalleled resources it offers dealers.
WANADA proudly celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017. The celebration at the Mayflower, where our original Annual Luncheon was held, was nothing short of a stellar event that reinvigorated the membership and energized the next generation of WANADA dealers.
That energy will be needed, for the seemingly impossible has started to happen: Auto sales are slowing down – even in the Washington region, which is usually a paragon of sales stability. First quarter sales in the Washington area fell 5 percent in 2017 after staying fairly steady through the recession. For better or worse, the fortunes of the area are still tied to Washington as the seat of national power. The uncertainty of a new administration and widespread talk of federal job cuts could have dampened enthusiasm for buying a new car in some quarters.
But area sales are sure to grow and stay strong, as Washington is now one of the hottest cities in the country for young college graduates to move to and start their careers. As they put down roots and have children, they will be eager to buy cars.
With the new administration and Congress come new initiatives. President Trump and the Republican Congress have shown their willingness to cut back on some of the regulations of the Obama era, including the timeline on fuel economy standards and guidelines for auto lenders under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. WANADA is tracking it all and will continue to keep dealers informed. Working as we do with sister association partners and allied business groups, we’ll take care to ensure that bad ideas don’t become law and that our dealers know the rules of engagement.
WANADA also closely tracks initiatives at the state level such as Maryland’s potential paid sick leave and Virginia’s new legislation on taxation of shop supplies. We will report progress on state activity in our award-winning weekly newsletter and our annual Automotive Law Briefing.
One of WANADA’s foremost activities is putting on the Washington Auto Show, an annual event that delivers excitement and new vehicle enthusiasm to consumers as it further establishes itself as one of the premier industry events on the global circuit. The show is making a name for itself as the Public Policy Show, where automakers announce their latest innovative products. In 2017, for the first time, the Auto Show was preceded by MobilityTalks International, a daylong event where experts from around the globe discussed initiatives in autonomous and connected cars. In its first year, the talks attracted government delegations from South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom.
As it has for more than 65 years, WANADA continues to provide insurance solutions to its dealer members on their employee benefits coverage needs through the association’s Insurance Agency. The service is becoming more important than ever as dealers try to follow the Congressional battle over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which at this writing is still the law of the land. The competition for employees that has driven employer-provided insurance for decades remains intact with Obamacare, the difference being the expansion of coverage to more employees and many new regulatory details that WANADA has made it its business to know.
It’s been an eventful year for the auto business and for the Washington area. WANADA will continue to keep dealers informed and to represent their interests with its varied activities. I look forward to serving another year as the association’s president.
President & CEO