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AIADA chairman: Dealers must engage government

November 10, 2010

Evanston Subaru principal Rod Paddor was one of more than 100 auto dealers to attend an NADA-arranged Dealer Fly-in to Washington, D.C., on April 26, to lobby for the financial reform bill’s Brownback amendment. But he was the only Illinois dealer.

Rick DeSilva, chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, said that needs to change.

"The events of the past couple years have proved beyond a doubt that a dealer’s sphere of influence must expand beyond state lines to include the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and federal agencies. These are the institutions and people, some elected and some appointed, who can shut us down, open us back up, unionize our employees, decide if we can offer financing to our customers, and if our cars are safe to drive. The government has never, at any point in history, been so involved in our business.

"It is high time we repay the favor.

"After all, the automobile business is not a spectator sport. I know that not everyone has the appetite to call their federal representatives directly, but sitting on our hands is no longer an option. The reality is that the small percentage of dealers who once could be relied on to represent you in Washington may no longer be in a position to do so. A new generation of dealer advocates needs to come forward. That means supporting your state association, NADA, NAMAD, and, if you’re an International dealer, AIADA.

"Support means not only paying your dues, but also being active in the grassroots programs and utilizing the services divisions of those associations. Finally, it means contributing to organizations like DEAC and AFIT-PAC.

"Our voices don’t fall on deaf ears in Washington. It was dealers who helped shape the "Cash for Clunkers" program last year, dealers who demanded justice for shuttered GM and Chrysler stores, and dealers who are leading the fight for one national fuel efficiency standard. The evidence is clear: lawmakers are listening. Are you talking to them?

"Without a Senate amendment exempting dealers [see related story about Senate Bill 3217], the financing options we can offer customers will be severely limited, if not curtailed all together. A rough fight lies ahead. As a dealer, where do you want to be on this issue? On the sidelines, or in the game?

"I have no patience for dealer passivity. This is a business that requires constant vigilance and focus. You want to stick your head in the sand while the world changes around you? Get out of the auto retail industry. It’s not fair to your employees or your customers. As one auto executive puts it, ‘If you don’t want to do the heavy lifting, then at least support the guys who do the lifting for you.’

"The AIADA and our fellow associations offer countless opportunities for dealers to become engaged with Washington’s legislative process. Standing on the sidelines is a luxury. And these days, it’s one dealers can no longer afford."