Lobbying and the Used Car Dealer

By Jeffrey Bellant April 22, 2022 196

I don’t envy business and organizations that have to tiptoe through today’s culture and politics as they lobby for legislative and regulatory support.

Recently, I attended a dinner with a group of independent dealers who met with a local candidate for state office in Michigan.

It was an interesting experience. Dealers and their representatives in state/national associations have limited resources so they have to spend wisely.

In this case, the candidate made their pitch to the dealers. The candidate held a range of positions on different issues. But dealers focused in on specific issues that affect them. They might agree with a politician on many issues that have nothing to do with the car business.

But when it comes to shelling out financial support, it’s the bread-and-butter industry issues that hold a dealer’s attention.

This particular candidate had a couple of main issues they wanted to discuss, but dealers peppered the candidate with questions on the issues that mattered most to them.

In my time covering the industry, independent dealers tend to support conservative, free market, business-friendly politicians.

Of course, it makes sense to support lawmakers who support your industry.

Several lawmakers have a background in car sales, including Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Texas Congressman Roger Williams.

I attended a luncheon at a National Independent Automobile Dealers Association one year when Williams gave a keynote address. He was a dynamic speaker and fired up the dealer crowd. The checks rolled in.

Years later, I listened to Kelly address the NIADA at a dinner in Washington D.C. during the group National Policy conference.

But dealers will listen to and work with members of both parties to support their industry.

Democrat Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy – whose family fled communist-led Vietnam in 1979 when she was a baby – gave a great speech one year at NIADA’s annual convention.

She was the rare moderate in an age when the two parties are so polarized. 

However, Murphy announced she will not seek re-election this year as Democrats face an expected thumping in the mid-terms. 

While dealers and their trade associations need to be shrewd in how they spend money in politics, the lawmakers themselves also have a challenge.

Running for office is expensive and they need all the financial support they can get. Even if their causes overlap with dealers, the money helps in being heard.

I got to follow NIADA members one year as they lobbied on the Hill, visiting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle during their annual National Policy Conference.

As someone who loves to follow politics, no matter how ugly it can get, watching dealers sit down with lawmakers and their staff was a great experience.

In “The Godfather,” Don Corleone told fellow mafia leaders that drugs are “a dirty business,” though he might have been talking about politics.

But during an election year when the nation chooses who will make the laws, it’s the only business in town.

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Last modified on Friday, 22 April 2022 13:19