Earlier this summer, NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart wrote a column about how the manufacturer-dealership relationship was critical, especially when faced with unprecedented challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the industry hard in March and April and will continue to have a lingering impact on the auto retailing industry well into the future.
I want to give Rhett my space in this issue of New Jersey Auto Retailer because I feel the message behind his column is important. Below is a slightly edited version of the column, Our Manufacturers Need Us More Than Ever, which was published back in June:
In my very first speech as your NADA Chairman in February, I talked about corruption, obstruction and disruption to the auto retail industry. With the coronavirus pandemic, our country got a big dose of disruption, and it’s the kind of disruption that has trickled down to every person, industry and business. We are all facing challenges as we learn to operate in a new business environment, but with that comes the opportunity to adapt and take our industry into a new era. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened a greater dialogue between automakers and dealers, and we cannot miss this chance for the advancement of the industry that many of us have spent our lives building.
Like everyone else, our OEM partners are struggling to find the right formula to operate in this new normal and become profitable again. As retailers, we are learning how to enhance our digital retailing capabilities and to keep our employees and customers safe as we reopen our doors. Automakers likewise are re-starting vehicle manufacturing facilities with safety protocols and plexiglass partitions to protect thousands of their workers. While our challenges vary, they all impact the broader industry that lives under one roof. Now is the time for us to unite our industry efforts.
The car-buying experience is changing, consumer expectations are evolving, and digital retailing has increased significantly. So automakers have their ears wide-open and are willing to listen to dealer input more than ever. Dealers need to seize this opportunity and strengthen their bonds with OEM partners. We know that we are the secret sauce for automakers to distribute and sell their products in the United States.
The 2021 NADA Show in New Orleans will be the most important NADA Show you ever attend. As dealers, we need to further educate ourselves on how to manage this disruption and learn best practices for business success in an ever-changing environment. Make meetings at the Show will be more critical than ever to discussing with our OEM partners how we navigate through this new environment and move forward as an industry. We need to demonstrate our focus, our readiness and our strength to the entire dealer body and the industry as a whole.
While many of you are laser-focused on the survival of your own businesses, it is prudent that you stay involved with NADA and your state and local associations. Stay involved by providing your ATAEs with guidance and on-the-ground insight that will help as they craft policies and legislation to address operations during coronavirus. Your involvement is as important as ever.
Don’t forget, a united auto industry is a strong auto industry!