The NIADA announced this week that Opie Hendricks, a past president of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association and a local icon in McKinleyville, Calif., died April 12, at the age of 90 with his family at his bedside.

Hendricks served as president of the IADA of California in 1992-93 and was NIADA president in 2002-03. He owned and operated Opie’s Fine Cars, the McKinleyville dealership he opened in 1968, for almost 50 years until his retirement.

In addition to his business, Hendricks was well known for his community service. He was involved in everything from sponsoring Little League teams and serving as grand marshal of Pony Express Days to donating cars for Safe and Sober graduation events and teaching local high school students how to buy a car.

Born in Center Ridge, Ark., Hendricks joined the Army in 1948 and moved to California in 1950, where a year later he married Imogene, his wife of 69 years.

“I have never met a more genuine human being,” NIADA past president Michael Cunningham said of Hendricks. “He was full of kind thoughts and down-home country wisdom. The world is a better place because Opie was here.”

Hendricks is survived by Imogene; children, Dennis Hendricks (Kathi), Greg Hendricks (Karen), Debra Littlefield (Chris) and Michelle Hendricks-Pollace (Dan); eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, as well as his brother, Wayne Hendricks.

A celebration of his life will be held at a future date to be determined.

The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association announced the death of Scott Lilja, NIADA’s vice president of member services.

 Lilja, 58, died May 3 after a long battle with multiple myeloma.

He was described by NIADA as “a giant in the used (car) industry.” His lengthy career in the auto industry earned him many accolades, including induction into NIADA’s prestigious Ring of Honor in 2002.

Lilja earned that distinction during his tenure as vice president and chief operating officer of NADA Used Car Guide, responsible for corporate strategy, alliances development, new market development, budgeting/forecasting and major account development.

Lilja joined NIADA in 2009, overseeing member services and the association’s industry partnerships.

“It’s always tough to lose such a great friend and close colleague,” NIADA CEO Steve Jordan said, “but I’ll forever remember how Scott was always so positive and inspiring in the face of repeated adversity. He will be greatly missed by Team NIADA and the auto industry he loved so much.”

Lilja is survived by his sister, Amy Griffith (John), nephews Patrick and Jack Griffith, and nieces Kirsti and Katie Lilja. He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and Jo Ann Lilja, wife, Linda Lilja and brother, Eric Lilja.

 Burial will be at St. Timothy’s Cemetery in Maple Lake, Minn., at a date to be determined. A memorial/celebration of life will be held at a later date.

 In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478, Oklahoma City, OK 73123, or Critter Cavalry Rescue, 608 Eastcastle Court, Franklin, TN 37069 .

GWC Warranty, a provider of F&I solutions for used vehicles, has joined the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) as a Gold-Level National Corporate Partner.

As a Gold-level NCP, GWC Warranty is recognized as one of the NIADA’s most trusted resources, with a proven track record of quality and excellence. The National Corporate Partner program provides NIADA members with an extensive, highly vetted roster of partners they can rely on to help them grow their business, protect their assets and enhance their profitability.

Related finance companies are not being approved for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program and that’s a mistake, according to the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.

NIADA, through its CEO Steve Jordan, made its case this week by sending letters to leaders of the U.S. Congress, the Small Business Administration and the Senate Small Business Committee.

“As NIADA members begin to apply for PPP loans, we find that the dealership entities are being approved with little concern. However, RFCs are routinely denied with lenders stating current SBA guidance prohibits finance companies from receiving a PPP loan,” Jordan wrote.

Citing the specific sections of the CARES Act, the NIADA contends that despite Congress’ “clear intent,” the act seems to limit and exclude RFCs from participating in the program.

Jordan wrote,  “NIADA believes this limitation clearly conflicts with the intent, if not the express language of the statute.”

NIADA provides proposed language to allow the RFCs to participate in PPP.

“This change will permit our BHPH (buy-here, pay-here members’) RFCs to get much needed help to keep America’s credit-challenged essential personnel driving,” he wrote.

Jordan also discussed the important role that RFCs and buy-here, pay-here dealers play in helping unbankable customers get financed for basic transportation.

The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association is calling on the White House to include auto sales as an essential service.

In a letter to President Trump sent this week, NIADA CEO Steve Jordan requested clarification from the Administration that automobile sales and leasing at independent automobile dealerships are essential services permissible during the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked that the recent guidance document on the essential critical infrastructure workforce issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency be amended to include vehicle sales and leasing as essential services.

In the letter, Jordan said it is not only critical to safeguard the businesses and services identified as essential, it is equally important to safeguard businesses that enable essential services to continue uninterrupted – including auto maintenance and repair facilities, which were included in the CISA document.

But motor vehicle sales are also essential, Jordan said, noting, “Whether in times of crisis or not, repairing a vehicle may not be a viable option. The vehicle may be declared a total loss, parts may not be available, the vehicle may simply be worn out or it may not be economically feasible to repair it.

“In these instances, the American consumer may have an immediate need to replace the vehicle. Stated differently, the only repair might be a different vehicle” and consumers “will need the sales and leasing (and perhaps financing) services an independent dealer can provide.”

NIADA will continue to encourage all independent dealers to place the safety of their customers and employees first.


Watch Automotive Industry News Covid-19 update below.

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