Our History

Our History

Automotive Trade Association Executives (ATAE) represents the executives of more than 100 state and metropolitan franchised new car dealer associations in the U.S. and Canada. These associations respond to the legislative, regulatory, educational, training, and business needs of more than 20,000 dealers on national, state and local levels.

In 1915 a dedicated group of automobile show managers met informally to discuss the various aspects of staging automobile shows. 

The organization was called the National Association of Automobile Show Managers (NAASM). The founder of NAASM was Ray W. Sherman, of New York, New York, a writer for “Motor World” magazine. Mr. Sherman visited automobile shows held in cities throughout the U.S. and determined it would be of mutual interest for managers of shows to meet and share ideas and information. 

The first meeting was held in Chicago, Illinois, which resulted in the formal formation of the association. In its early years one of the most significant accomplishments of NAASM was having the ban on motor shows lifted by the War Board. It was the belief of many in the industry that this action kept the industry in the public eye and brought the automobile business back to normal more rapidly than any other business in the country after World War I. Those who formed the association, men who could be called “men of vision,” realized that much could be accomplished by enlarging the scope of the association. 

In 1920 all managers of automobile trade associations were invited to participate in the meetings of the organization, and its name was changed to the National Association of Automobile Show and Association Managers. Women were invited to attend the meetings for the first time in 1924, and in 1925 it was decided to hold annual summer meetings of the association in different locations. With the post-war depression of the twenties, much was heard about the “used car problem,” and many plans were proposed to cope with the problem. Again, the association seized the opportunity and held a “used car conference,” which was the first centralization of clearance of information on the numerous cooperative plans. 

Maybe the conference did not solve the problem, but at least it clarified some thinking, and marked a further step in the association’s progress. Many of the services automobile trade associations provide their members today were conceived by the National Association of Automobile Show and Association Managers. 

During the depths of the depression, it became obvious that to survive, associations much provide more effective and valuable services for their members. Some of these services included insurance programs, dealer registrations, advertising, collection service, legal assistance, education, and safety campaigns. Realizing the need for aggressive leadership, formal Bylaws were adopted at the meeting of the association in 1934, and its name was changed to Automotive Trade Association Managers, better signifying the stature to which the occupation had developed. 

The secretary-treasurership had passed to succeeding trade paper editors until the 1934 meetings, at which time the association decided to remove the influence of the trade press from the official family and elect one of its member managers to the guardianship of its funds. The World War II years were rough on the automotive industry since manufacturing was geared to the war effort, but ATAM used its influence in support of legislation requiring the channeling and disposition of excess motor vehicles, which would become available at the close of the war, to ease disruption in the automotive market in the reconversion period. 

During this time, ATAM also urged the protection of automobile dealers by means of state licensing laws. ATAM has maintained a close relationship with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and since 1948 an ATAM “observer” has been appointed to serve on most NADA committees. Although ATAM’s original goals have not changed since its inception, the association was not incorporated until 1967. 

In 1974 ATAM recognized the growth to come in association business and established a permanent national office in Washington, D.C. The office was, and is, housed in the headquarters building of NADA. In 1984, at the summer meeting, the organization changed its name to Automotive Trade Association Executives (ATAE). Members of ATAE take pride in the part they play in one of the country’s most important industries and will always strive to fulfill the purposes for which it was organized.