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Commentary: Grassroots Advocacy – Getting Involved Makes a Difference
By Bill Fox
Oct. 21, 2015
The National Automobile Dealers Association was formed in 1917 when a small group of auto dealers came to Washington, D.C., and successfully lobbied Congress against a proposed luxury tax on automobiles. And for nearly 100 years, NADA has been advocating fiercely for new-car dealers on Capitol Hill.
However, the work of NADA's legislative and lobbying staff cannot be done alone. The nation's 16,500 dealerships - which provided and supported more than 2.2 million private-sector jobs totaling $144 billion in employee compensation last year - need to engage and support NADA's grassroots efforts back home in congressional districts across the country by building long-term relationships with elected officials.
There are many members of Congress who do not understand how an auto dealership operates, despite purchasing vehicles for their families and their campaigns. When elected officials learn and understand the retail-auto industry, they become better informed about how their decisions in Washington affect the ability of dealers to invest and grow their businesses. And when future public policy issues arise, they can rely on those relationships to consult with local dealers.
One of the most effective ways to build a relationship is to invite a member of Congress to the dealership and meet with employees and discuss NADA's legislative priorities, such as the NADA-backed legislation, H.R. 1737, which preserves the financing option for car buyers to receive discounted financing rates on auto loans from the dealership. Currently, there are 156 House members (63 Democrats and 93 Republicans) who support the bill, which is expected on the House floor in the near future.
New Video: Dealer-Assisted Financing Benefits Consumers
To better inform elected officials and opinion leaders about the true economic value of dealer-assisted financing for consumers, NADA has produced a new video with stories of real car buyers who saved money by financing their new-vehicle purchases through local dealerships. To view the video with your elected officials, visit www.nada.org/autofinance.
New Brochure: Invite a Member of Congress to the Dealership
To assist dealers in building these important relationships, NADA published the brochure, "3 Easy Steps to Making the Grassroots Connection," which provides quick and easy instructions on how to get started. Back in August, I hosted Congressman John Katko (R-N.Y.) at my Toyota dealership in Auburn, N.Y., for a one-hour tour and meeting with my employees, and I plan to regularly engage with Congressman Katko in the following months.
One of the best times to schedule a dealership visit is during congressional recess breaks when members of Congress are working in their home districts and meeting with constituents. For the remainder of 2015, there are three more recesses scheduled, with additional recess breaks planned in 2016:
• Nov. 9-13, 2015 (House in recess);
• Nov. 23-27, 2015 (House and Senate in recess); and
• Dec. 21-31, 2015 (House and Senate in recess).
For more information about inviting a member of Congress to your dealership, contact Patrick Calpin, NADA director of grassroots advocacy, at 202.547.5500 or email@example.com or visit www.nada.org/grassroots. Patrick can personally assist and connect you with your legislators along with scheduling and coordinating the visit. He can also help ensure that you are prepared with talking points and copies of NADA issue sheets to share with the legislator during the visit.
As the retail-auto industry continues to grow, our grassroots dealer network continues to evolve and our level of involvement needs to be strengthened. By building these relationships with the lawmakers we elect to represent us in Congress, we can take the first step to protect and grow our businesses, much like those dealers did nearly 100 years ago.
Election Day 2015
And don't forget to vote on Election Day, which is Tuesday, November 3. Dealers and their employees are encouraged to participate in the electoral process.
Bill Fox is 2015 NADA chairman and a multifranchise dealer in upstate New York.