Washington area dealers, industry and community leaders return to Mayflower Hotel in DC to celebrate 100 years of WANADA and the automobile business
Besides Saturday, April 1, 2017 being April Foolsê Day, it was also the Centennial Gala for the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association (WANADA) as scores of franchised dealers, joined by industry and community leaders of one stripe or other, converged on the historic Mayflower Hotel in DC to mark 100 years of the WANADA organization. WANADA member events were not staged at the Mayflower in 1917 when WANADA was formed because the hotel didnêt open until 1925. Itês well documented, however, that WANADA dealers packed the Mayflower Ballroom on numerous occasions subsequently in the early years, which WANADAês 21st Century membership did at the sold-out event on April 1st.
The Gala evening commenced with a festive reception on the Mayflowerês Grand Promenade on the 17th Street, NW side. A testimonial video of past and current WANADA members ran continuously during the reception and dinner, as did an extensive slide show of black and white photos spanning ten decades of the Washington area automobile business.
Emceeing the dinner program was Knight Kiplinger, Kiplinger Financial Media, who has keynoted many a WANADA Annual Luncheon with his insightful commentary on the economy. Mr. Kiplinger made for an especially interesting program organizer, fitting the history of Washingtonês automobile business into the industry at large, no less than the overall regional and national economy.
The dinner program itself was split between an historical look-back by dealer leaders and senior staff and an entertainment segment. Knight Kiplinger brought forward WANADA Chairman Charles Stringfellow who set the stage for the business segment. To put WANADAês Centennial in historical context, America entered World War I on April 6, 1917, practically 100 years to the day of our 2017 Gala, said Mr. Stringfellow. Curiously, too, when the big WANADA events at the downtown hotels started up in the 1920s, Prohibition was the law of the land and no one was supposed to be drinking alcoholic beverages, he said. The stories handed down, however, were that attendees at those early WANADA dinners were, indeed, drinking and when you see the old photos with everyone in party hats, watching circus acts tableside, itês not hard to imagine that most were liberally imbibing, albeit illegally. Identifying himself as WANADAês 57th chairman, Mr. Stringfellow paused a moment to thank his predecessor, the 56th chairman, Dick Paterson of RRR Automotive, for his sound counsel and assistance.
Emcee Kiplinger next introduced longtime WANADA member Jack Pohanka of Pohanka Automotive who shared a rich and storied perspective covering his firsthand experience over six decades as an automotive retailer in Washington operating a family operation going back to when Washington was just another sleepy southern town. As WANADAês 27th chairman from the mid-1960s, Pohanka went on to chair the NADA Board in the mid-1970s. Past Chairmen Vince Sheehy of Sheehy Auto Stores and Jack Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Auto Malls, were included in a special Centennial documentary of the Washington area automobile business that was part of the business segment. Then WANADAês past, present and future were discussed by the last two of only four CEOs over WANADAês 100 years, Gerry Murphy and John OêDonnell.
Mr. Murphy explained how he followed his father and grandfather into WANADA, the three covering the chief of staff post for 82 of WANADAês 100 years. Specifically, Gerry Murphy was CEO from 1982-2014; his father, Mike Murphy, from 1955-82, and his grandfather, Dick Murphy, from 1932-55. Gerry Murphy said WANADA had no staff for its first 15 years when it started out as Washington Automotive Trade Association (WATA). Strictly a DC dealer association in the beginning, WATA became Automotive Trade Association National Capital Area (ATANCA) in 1954, reflecting the metropolitan character of the organization at that point. The final name change in 1995 happened when then Chairman of the Board John Ourisman persuaded his fellow dealers that the better nomenclature for the organization was Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association, or WANADA, the name that has stuck ever since.
Rounding out the 100 years of WANADA CEOs, John OêDonnell became the fourth in 2014, a position heês held almost three years. WANADA is still delivering on government relations that brought it into existence with NADA in 1917 to oppose a luxury tax on horseless carriages that Congress was considering until the dealers convinced them otherwise, said Mr. OêDonnell. WANADA continues to produce the Washington Auto Show that goes back to the 1920s, along with employee benefits coverage for dealers that WANADA began in 1947.
In more recent times, Mr. OêDonnell reported, WANADA developed a solution to the technician shortage crisis when, through its Auto Dealer Education Institute, the ADEI Technician Development Program was created. This unique, on-the-job-training curriculum has for several years successfully recruited and placed technician trainees in dealership service departments, he said, who then take training courses at either Montgomery College/Rockville or Marshall Academy in Falls Church. When the OJT and training components of the ADEI program are concluded over the course of two years, Mr. OêDonnell said, the ADEI trainee has become a full-fledged line technician for the sponsoring dealership.
Mr. OêDonnell introduced his counterpart CEOs from NADA, MADA and VADA — Peter Welch, Pete Kitzmiller and Don Hall, respectively, all of whom were on hand and joined by their senior staffs. He additionally introduced John Bozzella with Global Automakers, whose organization, along with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is a major stakeholder in the Washington Auto Show.
These fellow association leaders in our industry have helped keep WANADA on the success trajectory it has been on for a century benefitting dealers here and everywhere, which is very much appreciated, OêDonnell said.
And while weêre at it, I want to commend WANADAês staff here tonight for the tremendous job they do day in, and day out, he said, but in particular our thanks goes out to Bob Storin and Kathy Teich who together organized and rolled out this great evening! Longtime WANADA operatives were also recognized, to include WANADAês CFO, communications director, office manager, accountant, Board counsel and in-house counsel, also known as, Isabel Garcia, Barbara Pomerance, Trish Frisbee, Jackie Murphy, Allen Jones and Gerry Murphy, respectively. This culminated in an engraved 100 year anniversary keepsake being presented to Mr. Murphy.Download Bulletin PDF