Industry Leaders Lobby on Hill for Independents Featured

By Jeffrey Bellant November 29, 2018


As a change swept through Washington D.C. in November with the Democrats winning the House, one thing has not changed.

The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association continues to build relationships and lobby lawmakers, regardless of which party is in leadership.

NIADA’s National Policy Conference in late September preceded the elections, but it didn’t change the association’s efforts to lobby on behalf of the country’s independent dealers on issues ranging from recalls to regulation.

More than 200 industry people attended the event, holding a record 200 meetings on Capitol Hill.

NIADA CEO Steve Jordan said it’s important to have key members of the Congress and their staff remember the industry, and know their issues and concerns.

Other leaders were pleased with the event.

“We’re making a serious impact,” said NIADA President Andy Gabler. “We’re making a difference here.”

John Brown, executive director of the Carolinas IADA, said his members got to meet with almost every lawmaker – more than a dozen – representing North and South Carolina.

“We had 26 attendees and split into four groups to meet with the (lawmakers or their staffs),” Brown said.

One of the issues that has been part of the discussion in past events was mandatory recalls.

“Not all recalls are the same,” Brown said. He said some recalls involve something as minor as a misprinted owner’s manual.

“The other issue is that there are cars recalled where there is no remedy – there are no parts for it,” Brown said.

Dealers also expressed their opposition to increased tariffs on auto parts.

“We certainly are in favor of fair trade, but these tariffs cost all consumers because repair costs go up. That’s not good policy,” Brown said.

He said dealers also wanted to make sure reforms to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection – which has been beneficial in easing up of regulations on dealers – continue.

But Brown said the Bureau also should be restructured so that it is more accountable to Congress and subject to the budgetary process.

Todd Oden, vice president of MTO Motors in Birmingham, Ala., also joined the industry on the Hill. Oden serves as chairman of Alabama IADA’s board of directors.

“This was my fourth trip (to this event),” he said. “It’s about just being able to get those politicians’ ears and try to educate them about what we do. ”

Oden said the Alabama delegation got to meet with every one of their lawmakers except one congressman who was sick.

He said D.C. staffers appreciate when dealers work with them and inform them about issues before something becomes a crisis.

“Two of the three staffers would say, ‘it’s so much easier to put out a fire if you don’t wait to come in until your pants are on fire.’”

The NIADA delegation held a luncheon featuring a presentation from U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who is also a car dealer.

The NIADA also heard from speakers from OSHA, the FTC, NHTSA and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Brown said he’s proud that CIADA’s delegation has had a strong showing each year from its dealer base, with four first-timers attending.

Brown met with his own congressman – Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC-9) – even though Pittenger was a lame duck after losing the GOP primary.

Brown said it was still important to offer his appreciation for Pittenger’s support over the years. He added that congressional staffers do end up in other positions and it’s possible they will meet with these same folks again.

Brown said, most importantly, he and his dealers always hand the lawmakers or staff members a contact sheet as a resource on automotive issues.

He urges them to call him or his association if a constituent or staffer or federal official has a question about the industry and they need help finding an answer.

“It just builds that relationship so they know who you are,” Brown said.

For example, even when the Democrats weren’t in power, the Carolinas IADA still made a point of visiting all members of the minority party, whether it is Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) or James Clyburn (SC-1).

Being sensitive to both party’s positions is important. For example, Brown’s group met with Democratic leaders about the industry’s criticism of the former CFPB.

“You have to go in understanding that the former head of the CFPB is one of their colleagues (Sen. Elizabeth Warren),” Brown said.

“You’re not going in to bash the CFPB. You are going to say what our experience has been.”

Brown said a good example of being able to work with both sides of the aisle was the group’s meeting with Butterfield’s staff about recalls.

“We hoped they make the distinction that not all recalls are safety-related,” Brown said.

When blanket recalls are made, the problem consumers face may include a dealer who won’t take their trade-in or not offer a good price since they cannot resell it, he said.

As a result, D.C. staffers were engaged and understood the dealers’ position.

Oden said one of the events a few years ago really showed the importance of dealers talking with lawmakers and officials in the nation’s capital.

“We were talking about buy-here, pay-here, and one of the people said, ‘now tell me what buy-here, pay-here is?’” Oden said.

“Everyone in the room had their mouth fall open.”

Brown is hoping the CIADA, as well as the NIADA, can plan a small delegation in early 2019 to go back to D.C. to meet with the new Congress, rather than just wait until the regular event next September.

Since the House leadership will change – which also means the chairmanships will change – it makes sense for the industry to reach out to those new leaders as early as possible, Brown said.

“We want to make sure that the door of communication is still open and we want to obviously congratulate the new leaders,” Brown said.

“We want to tell them that ‘We want you to have the same access to us that the previous leadership had.’

“We’re here to speak for the industry, not for a political party.”











Last modified on Friday, 30 November 2018 14:24