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Auto Dealers Gather Virtually to Make Their Voices Heard in Washington



Sheryll Poe, Profile Picture, 175x175

Sheryll Poe


The three E’s – the elections, the economy and engaging with legislators were at the forefront of day two of NADA’s first virtual Washington Conference.

The Industry Was Tested—and NADA Responded

2020 NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart, CEO and owner of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, Ohio, kicked off day two of the virtual conference by detailing how NADA and its members “moved at the speed of light to be the first to get to the White House to advocate for the industry,” when the pandemic hit, ensuring that auto dealers were declared an “essential service” and could stay open. “When most of America was shut down, our service centers stayed open for our customers,” Ricart said, and “to keep America safely rolling.”

“NADA then shifted into hyperdrive and produced an unprecedented amount of resources,” including an entirely new COVID-19 information portal. Meanwhile, the NADA Academy turned into “a webinar producing machine,” tackling every issue facing auto dealers no matter how big or small.

“Everything NADA did was aimed at keeping dealerships alive and running so we can keep our local economies driving forward,” Ricart said. As a result, “the industry is stronger than ever, more united than ever, and NADA can get us through anything we face in the future.”

U.S. Economy is in a ‘Self -Sustaining Recovery,’ Kudlow Says

Larry Kudlow, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the United States Economic Policy Council, provided what he termed “a brief on the optimistic side.” Kudlow noted that the auto industry itself is booming, with “sales up 74% since the April woes,” and was poised to continue to gain during the fourth quarter. He also pointed to gains in the housing, auto and retail sectors as signs that the U.S. was well into a “self-sustaining recovery.”

Kudlow touted the Administration’s policies to lower taxes, roll back regulations, create energy independence and negotiate better trade agreements had bettered the economy, including increases in household income and declining income inequality. “The biggest gainers in living standards went to middle- and lower-income folks,” he said.

The economy will continue to be a bright spot if the nation sticks with these policies, Kudlow said. “As we work through this pandemic—and vaccines are in sight, case rates are down, fatalities are down, more businesses are re-opening—staying the course with these kinds of free-enterprise policies will generate the kind of continuous improvement of living standards that we saw in the first three years of the president’s term,” he concluded.

‘An Election Like No Other’

With the presidential elections just six weeks away, it was no surprise that one of the most popular sessions of the day (at least, according to the live chat feature on the screen) was the annual political update by Charlie Cook and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

The two elections experts offered their insights into the 2020 presidential election as well as some of the tightest Senate races on the ballot. Cook repeatedly referred to the upcoming contests as “an election like no other,” and said it all comes down to a referendum on President Trump and whether the electorate wants to keep him in the job.

When making election predictions, it’s wise to keep the lessons of the 2016 elections in mind, Cook said. “The only way 2016 resembles 2020 is that they both are presidential years, Trump is the Republican nominee, and both years begin with a 2,” Cook stated. For one thing, an unprecedented 6% of voters chose to vote for a third-party candidate in 2016 rather than the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This year, Cook predicts less than 3% of voters will cast a ballot for a third-party candidate. It remains to be seen who those third-party voters will turn to, Cook said.

As he wrapped up the day’s programming, NADA President and CEO Peter Welch made note of the historic nature of this new meeting format that allowed this year’s attendees to engage and advocate on behalf of their industry from their homes and businesses. “Ladies and gentlemen, mark this one in the NADA history books: We just had our first virtual NADA Washington Conference. Not too shabby,” Welch said. “ Dealers have always been our most effective lobbyists and this year, we need you more than ever.”