Outgoing WANADA Chairman Charles Stringfellow gave an especially positive and noteworthy report to the membership on the state of the Washington area dealer organization and of the industry in an extraordinary year. He covered events such as WANADA’s 100th anniversary gala at the Mayflower in Washington, DC, a very successful Washington Auto Show in February, and public policy wins by business against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Department of Labor.
This year has been another good one for the auto industry, Stringfellow said, with October sales at an 18.1 million annual sales rate, the second highest month in 2017. Year-end sales should again be well above 17 million.
“Dealers have benefited from a more business-friendly public policy climate at the federal level in Washington, and on down to the states and localities as well,” Stringfellow said. For instance, the CFPB’s rule promoting class action lawsuits against financial institutions on consumer loans, including auto loans, was set aside by Congress.
That move will “head off the costly litigation that would have resulted, driving up the cost of…new vehicles,” Stringfellow said. Congress was persuaded in part by NADA and the dealer associations of the Automotive Trade Association network, of which WANADA is a member.
Another positive dealer result, Stringfellow said, was the defeat of the ill-conceived Border Adjustment Tax proposal in Congress. That effort was spearheaded by AIADA, which organized a dealer fly-in to lobby members of Congress.
The federal courts have also become friendlier to business. One example is the action by the federal court in Texas striking down a Labor Department rule from the Obama administration that would have substantially increased the salary threshold that triggers employee overtime pay requirements.
And a favorite dealer issue, repeal of the estate tax, was noted as being part of the current tax bill from the Trump administration, now before the House and Senate.
WANADA worked with its sister associations in Maryland and Virginia this year to assist dealers as well. “VADA, with WANADA’s support, challenged Tesla in court on its unilateral move to expand its dealerless retail network in Virginia in violation of dealer licensing laws and its own agreement with the state’s Motor Vehicle Board a few years ago,” Stringfellow said. “In Maryland, MADA, with WANADA’s support, got helpful dealer performance standards enacted into law, which ensure fairer treatment of dealers by automaker franchisors,” he added.
Stringfellow noted that the Maryland Auto Dealers Foundation last year honored the late Mike Murphy, WANADA’s CEO from 1955 to 1981, with its Legends Hall of Fame Award, presented to Mike’s son and successor at WANADA, Gerry Murphy.
Stringfellow also recognized WANADA Board member Dottie Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Auto Malls as WANADA’s nominee for the 2017 Time Dealer of the Year Award. For the Northwood University Dealer Education Award, Stringfellow said WANADA nominated Jim Gramm, Safford Automotive, who is slated to be honored at the 2018 NADA Convention.
One of WANADA’s most prominent endeavors, The Washington Auto Show, just keeps getting better and more prestigious every year, Stringfellow said, commending 2017 Auto Show Chairman Geoff Pohanka and his committee. Washington is now known throughout the industry as the Public Policy Auto Show, as evidenced by the preeminent speakers on the Mobility Talks panels during Washington’s Auto Show Industry/Media Days, Stringfellow said.
Chairman Stringfellow also highlighted WANADA’s work with NADA on dealership F&I administration, where NADA offers its Fair Credit Compliance Program. Correspondingly, WANADA teams up with the Kindred-Line member, JM&A to offer F&I best practices seminars which Stringfellow said have been very well received over the years. And with the participation of NADA attorneys and WANADA lawyer consultants, WANADA regularly presents Legal and Regulatory Briefings for dealer members throughout the year.
The Auto Dealer Education Institute (ADEI) continues its good work advancing dealership career training through Montgomery College in Rockville, MD, and Marshall Academy in Fairfax County, VA, Stringfellow said. Students are trained to work for dealership service departments while they pursue a two-year NATEF-Certified work/study curriculum that results in their becoming line technicians.
The employee benefits programs provided by WANADA’s Insurance Agency got a tip of the hat as well from Stringfellow, furnishing as is does much needed health and disability coverage for dealership personnel.
One of the most impressive features of the dealer community has always been its generosity in times of need, Stringfellow concluded. “As has happened time and time again over the years, WANADA and its dealer members are there for worthy causes, particularly when disasters strike, like the devastating hurricanes that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Caribbean earlier this fall,” Stringfellow said. WANADA made a particularly generous donation of $50,000 for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.Download Bulletin PDF