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America’s Truck Dealers Show Resilience During Toughest Year Yet

Published November 16, 2020


2021 ATD Chairman Steve Bassett

Steve Bassett

Immediate Past Chairman
General Truck Sales
4300 N. Broadway
Muncie, IN 47303

A few months ago, an article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted one specific attribute that is critical to surviving the kinds of stressors we’ve had this year: Resilience. When applied to the business sector, resilience can be defined as “a company’s capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive in altered circumstances.” The truck dealers of America have demonstrated this adaptability throughout the obstacles of 2020—and we must continue to show resilience as the country continues to face the challenges of a global health pandemic and moves past a contentious presidential election.

On behalf of ATD, I recognize all that we’ve been through in our dealer community. Prior to March 2020, we had been dealing with the stresses of disruptions to our industry and our supply chains. Truck dealers everywhere were busy adapting to changes stemming from alternative fuels, federal regulations and industry regulations. We were also bracing for a market slow-down and a drop in build rates for trucks pre-COVID. And let’s not forget that we were already under the strain of a diesel technician shortage that promised to impact our customers and dealerships if left unchecked.

And then the novel coronavirus hit… shutting down most of the country (and most businesses) for the better part of four months.

But it was in moments like this that dealers nationwide rose to the challenge and exemplified the resilience that only fire-tested entrepreneurs can. Rather than handing the fate of our businesses over to the virus, ATD and NADA went directly to the White House and fought for dealership service centers to remain open as essential businesses. We were successful.

Despite a down economy and unprecedented layoffs, truck dealers stood their ground and today are seeing pent-up demand pushing truck orders to their strongest levels. Fleets are gaining more confidence, and we’re seeing consecutive gains in medium- and heavy-duty truck orders for the first time this year.

And despite a contentious presidential election that threatened to break the bonds that unite us, I have seen more unity than division in our truck dealer community. We are moving forward despite a “changing of the guard” because we all know business must continue no matter who is in the White House. 

I’m proud of the ATD team that’s worked hard to keep all of us resilient during these times. I urge you to continue visiting the NADA Coronavirus Hub for the latest updates and health guidance that will continually keep our people healthy through our fight against COVID-19.

Being part of a strong association is more important than ever, and NADA is bringing its 2021 Show directly to us, virtually, Tuesday, Feb. 9, through Thursday, Feb. 11. NADA has lowered the registration cost for dealers and managers so that more of our employees can benefit. The virtual platform allows for unprecedented attendance, easy access and convenience, without the cost of travel and hotel accommodations. Attendees will be able to access renowned educational offerings to help improve job performance and build resistance into the future.

In the meantime, ATD is hard at work developing our own brand-new Show. We look forward to its reveal in 2022! I said this when I became chairman and can’t emphasize it enough: take advantage of all that your membership offers. This includes joining an ATD 20 Group or sending promising employees to ATD Academy. Take advantage of online workshops and catch up on industry issues with ATD Insider. And don’t forget that the 2020 ATD Supplier Dealer Attitude Survey is open now. Be sure to complete the survey by Thursday, Dec. 3. The survey information is vital for ATD to effectively communicate important dealer issues with suppliers. Now is the time to stay proactive and do what we can to build our immunity against elements that wreak havoc on our businesses.

In a way, the Harvard Business Review didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Because resilience is in the DNA of those who are strong enough to build their own businesses, build up their local economies, and have enough left over to give back to their communities. Despite everything that’s taken us to our breaking point, we’ve survived. And I know we’ll come out of 2020 as resilient as ever!