1970s: New NADA initiatives

1970s: New NADA initiatives

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1970-1979 Timeline of Events (click to enlarge)

With the increase in imports, trade became an issue in Congress and elsewhere. In 1970, NADA went on record opposing a trade bill that would have imposed quotas if imports reached a certain percentage of the market.


But the 1970 Clean Air Act and the 1973 energy crisis had the greatest effects on car sales. By 1974, sales of midsized cars were so poor that NADA ran ads to promote them. NADA supported voluntary energy conservation measures, rather than mandatory ones such as gas taxes and rationing. Nonetheless, CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards were first set in 1977, and a gas-guzzler tax was passed the next year.


One piece of NADA-backed legislation that benefited consumers and dealers alike was the anti-odometer tampering amendment of 1972, which prohibited the sale of devices that could change the odometer mileage and operation of vehicles with disconnected odometers. In 1986, NADA worked for the passage of another odometer law requiring a record of a vehicle’s mileage when it changed owners.


While it may seem quaint now, the association promoted a dealership image campaign with the NADA Blazer Program in 1972. Many automakers were encouraging dealers to buy blazers for their employees. Through NADA, dealers could buy hopsack blazers for $26 or double-knit polyester for $30.


New NADA divisions launched

By 1975, NADA had outgrown its building in downtown Washington, D.C., and moved to its current headquarters in suburban Virginia. That same year, the Dealers Election Action Committee (DEAC) began. In 1976, the group’s first full year, dealers contributed more than $1 million. (DEAC was renamed NADA PAC last year.)


Also in 1975, the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation (NADCF) was formed, with an outreach campaign to dealers in 1977. Two years later, the foundation delivered more than 50 grants under its Emergency Medical Services program, which provides Resusci Anne CPR training units to organizations in 50 states. An Ambassadors Program and various memorial funds were added later. (NADCF was renamed the NADA Foundation last year.)


In 1978, NADA launched a national campaign to build public support for automobiles and counter efforts to restrict their use because of gas shortages and emissions concerns. Financed by NADA members and the Big Three, the campaign gave its first annual International Freedom of Mobility award to Barry Bruce­-Biggs, author of The War Against the Automobile. In 1979, the Automobility Campaign initiated “You Can If You Plan,” an advertising campaign informing consumers how to plan ahead to cope with fuel shortages. Also part of the campaign: America's Automobile Man, a vinyl record produced, with the lyrics: He's keepin America movin, keepin America strong. Providing the wheels to the future, helpin our world move along.”


NADA Data published

Though NADA had previously published economic facts and figures on the economic impact of new-car and -truck dealers, the association published its first edition of NADA Data in 1979. The annual report quickly became a popular mainstay for analysts, the media and other industry watchers, and helped spawn monthly reports on dealership financial profiles and sales trends.


Several NADA divisions and initiatives were added during the decade. This included the American Truck Dealers Division (1970), the industry relations department (mid-1970s) to work with automakers, and the NADA Legal Defense Fund (1975) to provide financial and legal assistance.


The continuing education division (1978) published its first management guides for dealers and was renamed management education in 1983. And the Dealer Academy was launched in 1979, the same year NADA’s legislative staff moved to an NADA-owned building just two blocks from the U.S. Capitol.