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NADA chairman: '20 made dealers 'stronger, tougher, wiser'

February 19, 2021
In his final remarks to dealers as outgoing NADA chairman, Rhett Ricart — who led the organization through one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory — had a simple message during Feb. 9 remarks at NADA Show: "Never forget what we went through, because it shaped who we are today."
Ricart took over as NADA chairman at the previous NADA Show in mid-February 2020. Less than a month into his tenure, the coronavirus pandemic upended everything in the auto industry, including the priorities of the organization Ricart was tapped by his fellow dealers to lead in 2020.
Even though "no playbook was ever written for the challenges we faced in 2020," Ricart said, the NADA rallied immediately and refocused on the single goal of steering America’s franchised auto dealers through the pandemic.
"This association has never fought harder, worked faster, or given so much of itself so that business owners, like you and me, had a franchise that remained valuable and protected," Ricart said at the opening session of NADA’s first-ever virtual Show.
From advocating for dealerships to be deemed essential businesses, to helping dealers navigate coronavirus-related regulations, to maintaining dealership workforces, Ricart reminded auto dealers nationwide of the importance of the NADA’s efforts on behalf of, and hand-in-hand with, franchised dealers.
"We’ve lived through a year we’ve never witnessed before, but the NADA rose to the occasion," Ricart said. "It is a forcefield that covers every dealer. I am in awe of the NADA staff, our state and metro associations, and their leadership. Everything they did, they did on our behalf."
And Ricart, president and CEO of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, Ohio, credited his fellow dealers for their perseverance, determination and flexibility in the face of a constantly changing and ever-challenging business environment.
"Despite the darkest days, we kept people on the payroll, we reformulated our business model, we prioritized the health of customers, employees and our families, and we continued to sell and service cars," Ricart said. "Through the chaos, I saw the strength of auto dealers like I never have before. Dealers became life preservers, contortionists and survivors."
Ricart urged dealers to stay vigilant and remain confident in their ability to thrive in the face of adversity. And he reiterated his belief that the challenges dealers survived in 2020 will leave them better positioned to succeed well beyond 2021.
"After the year we’ve been through, I know one thing for sure: We are a bulletproof band of brothers and sisters who are stronger, tougher and wiser," Ricart said.