The NADA Story: America's Resilient Auto Retailer

The NADA story began in 1917 when 30 auto dealers traveled to the nation’s capital to convince Congress not to impose a luxury tax on the automobile. They successfully argued that the automobile is a necessity of American life, not a luxury. From that experience, the National Automobile Dealers Association was born. Today, NADA represents nearly 16,000 new-car and -truck dealerships with about 32,500 franchises, both domestic and international.

NADA: A Brief History

1917: NADA is launched from successful dealer effort to cut vehicle luxury tax from 5 percent to 3 percent.

1918: NADA holds first annual meeting in Chicago, sets up HQ in St. Louis, gets first major legislation—National Motor Vehicle Theft Law—and soon starts publishing NADA Bulletin, precursor to NADA’s AutoExec.

1931: NADA creates first factory-dealer contracts.

1933: N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide debuts (40,000 copies); NADA membership is at a Depression-low 2,200, but, with FDR’s help, jumps to 20,000 the next year.

1941: NADA moves from Detroit to Washington, D.C.

1944: "NADA Battalions"—association-recruited mechanics—involved in D-day invasion of Normandy.

Ed Sullivan1952: NADA president appears on Ed Sullivan program (to encourage voting).

1954: NADA lobbies for dealer exemptions to Taft-Hartley and for eliminating automakers’ "phantom freight" charges.

1956: NADA launches insurance program (later NADIT) and, the next year, retirement plan (later NADART).      

1960: First quality dealer award (from Saturday Evening Post) given at NADA convention.

Frank E. McCarthy

1968: Frank E. McCarthy begins 33-year career as chief executive; 20 Groups launched and, two years later, American Truck Dealers formed.

NADA building1975: NADA builds McLean, Va., HQ; launches Dealers Election Action Committee and Legal Defense Fund.

1977: Charitable foundation established.

1979: Doors open at Dealer Academy.

1984: First dealer attitude survey.

1986: NADA gets Superfund exemption for dealers who collect used oil from do-it-yourselfers.

1987: NADA backs anti–odometer tampering law.

1996: NADA makes online debut; forms IT committee; helps get luxury tax phaseout law.

1997: NADA persuades IRS to let dealers settle LIFO violations.

2000: NADA redesigns and renames magazine AutoExec; debuts website offering Internet links to dealers around the country. 

Phil Brady


: Longtime NADA president Frank McCarthy dies; Phillip D. Brady is named president; NADA-backed phaseout of estate tax becomes law.