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Tonkin Urges Automakers to Craft New Relationship With Dealers

February 16, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2010) – The nation’s new-car dealers and the trade organization that represents them have much to look forward to in 2010 as the industry rebounds after a tough year, the incoming chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) said at its convention in Orlando.

The association is ready to “hit the ground running” to tackle a fresh slate of issues this year with a new attitude and new agenda that relies heavily on feedback from dealer members, said 2010 NADA Chairman Ed Tonkin, a multifranchise dealer from Portland, Ore. Tonkin is the second chairman in a row to follow his father in the position. Ron Tonkin led the association in 1989.

After avoiding an “Armageddon” for many in the industry last year, Tonkin said the NADA will now turn its attention to the challenges ahead: IRS issues like UNICAP and LIFO; avoiding a patchwork of mileage standards under the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements; and closely monitoring Congress to avoid unnecessary and burdensome regulation.

Tonkin said the NADA’s work to get dealers exempted from oversight under the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency is an example of how the organization is well suited to represent dealers in Washington.

He also said last year’s restructuring in the industry has created a “watershed moment” for automakers to establish a true partnership with their dealers — an opportunity that may not come again.

“Like my dad has said, ‘the bird doesn’t always fly by twice,’” Tonkin said. “With new ownership and new people in charge, [automakers] have a golden opportunity to craft a new relationship with their dealers, one based on a genuine spirit of cooperation.”

And though much uncertainty remains, Tonkin said dealers should be optimistic. With expected sales of nearly 12 million in 2010, rising employment and improved lending, the future is bright, he said.

“We’ve faced difficult times before and what did we do? We sold cars and trucks—in bunches,” he said. “Every possible scenario you could imagine we dealers have remained the constant. That’s strength, that’s resiliency and that’s what America’s new car and truck dealers are all about.”

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