1990s: A new millenium

1990s: A new millenium

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1990-1999 Timeline of Events (click to enlarge)

Many of these same issues continued into the 1990s. There were new rules for the Clean Air Act, including higher proposed CAFE standards. NADA sued the EPA on its ozone standards and for allowing Northeastern states to adopt California clean-air standards. The EPA stepped up enforcement of Superfund—passed in 1980—with its “cradle-to-grave” liability for improperly disposed used oil.


On the labor front, NADA worked with Congress on the Americans with Disabilities Act before it became law, then informed dealers of their legal requirements. With the AIDS epidemic in full force, NADA published guidelines to help dealers establish effective workplace policies and educational programs to help employees better understand the disease.


NADA also advocated for title-branding bills for salvage vehicles, because both dealers and consumers had been unwitting purchasers of these units. And NADA was successful in reducing the federal excise tax on heavy-duty trucks.


Tax battles continue

At the same time, the issue that led to the creation of NADA in 1917 was back in 1990 with a luxury tax enacted on vehicles retailing for more than $32,500. Despite long odds, NADA scored a huge victory in 1996 with a phaseout of the tax. NADA leaders were even invited by President Bill Clinton to a signing ceremony on the White House lawn.


On the manufacturer side, fleet subsidies—or “program cars” from rental car companies—were flooding the market. NADA’s efforts led to important changes in these programs. And factory relations were not so smooth on other fronts, with NADA battling mandatory binding arbitration provisions and factory image campaigns. NADA also created a special task force to study the long-term consequences of automaker programs that reduced dealer profitability.


Diversity became more prominent during the decade, with various automakers promoting programs to boost the number of minority dealers. NADA added four new at-large members—two minorities and two women—to its board of directors in 1998. A few years later, NADA began two all-minority 20 Group programs and hosted a diversity forum for dealers and automakers. (And in 2005, the association began the first annual women dealers event at its convention.)


Defending the dealer image

Later in 1998, NADA and a coalition of automakers formed Automotive Retailing Today (ART) to improve the way the public and the media view the auto industry in general and dealers in particular. With various hidden-camera TV reports unfairly attacking dealers earlier in the decade, NADA had already launched a sales certification program to address image problems and chronic salesperson turnover. NADA also began a “Stomp and Steer” PR campaign with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser on how to use anti-lock braking systems.


By the end of the decade, some of the more high-profile priorities for dealers were the public dealer groups (Republic, Lithia, United Auto Group and others), dealer consolidation, the Internet and the millennium madness called Y2K.