NADA was born in 1917 when a group of dealers set out to change the way Congress viewed automobiles. Thirty dealers from state and local associations went to Washington and set up base at the Willard Hotel. By convincing Congress that cars weren’t luxuries as they had been classified, but were vital to the economy, the group prevented total factory conversion to wartime work and succeeded in reducing a proposed 5 percent luxury tax to 3 percent.
These businessmen realized that the nation’s 15,000 dealers needed continuing representation in Washington. Two months later—on July 17 and 18—130 dealers met in Chicago to elect officers. Milwaukee dealer George W. Browne was the first NADA president. To launch the association cost exactly $102.71, which covered mostly telegrams, telephone calls and postage.
1917 The Founding Fathers of NADA
The early years
The annual convention was an NADA fixture from the beginning. The association wanted its meetings to coincide with auto shows because of all the dealers attending. So, before it was six months old, NADA held its first annual meeting, with 138 delegates, during the Chicago Auto Show. St. Louis was chosen as the city for NADA headquarters.
The first important national legislation sponsored by NADA was the National Motor Vehicle Theft Law (the Dyer Act) in 1919, which made it a federal offense to steal a vehicle and take it across state lines. NADA also promoted uniform accounting methods among dealers and was active in seeking auto financing reforms.
1933 Official Used Car Guide
By 1920, NADA office staff had grown to six people, with seven field secretaries. The annual budget was $54,850. Member services were expanded to include insurance protection and bank credit. The 1924 convention in Chicago had 2,000 attendees.
In 1922, NADA began to study used-car values as a service to members. A decade later those studies became the N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide, carrying the U.S. government’s endorsement as the nation’s authority on used-car prices. About 40,000 copies were printed and mailed to subscribers in December 1933. The first issue was 388 pages, published for 21 regions.
Interest in used-car values was high for two reasons. One, after debating for years how to handle trade-ins, dealers finally began applying trade-in values toward new-car down payments. Two, used cars outsold new cars. At the end of World War I, sales of used cars were about half as numerous as new-car sales. But from the 1920s through the 1950s, used-car sales consistently exceeded franchised new-car sales.