I’m paralyzed with disbelief that the National Automobile Dealers Assn. has scheduled Hillary Rodham Clinton as the keynote speaker at its annual convention in January.
Let me make it crystal clear: This is not an attack, but rather a criticism of an organization I love but I feel has lost its way on many levels.
Before some dealer readers knee-jerk in response to what I say, consider this: The NADA is your national organization. It is your first line of defense against legislative and special-interest threats to the franchised dealer system. We need to support and strengthen NADA, and if necessary, reinvent it.
This is not about Hillary Rodham Clinton, her philosophy, politics or qualifications. We all have an opinion of her. On my Facebook page, I posted my opposition to her speaking at the convention. That triggered nearly 200 posts in less than an hour. Liberals and conservatives, many of them dealer principals, began arguing.
I stayed out of it and did not influence the conversation. It was ugly. In coming months I think this ugliness will spread.
My original thesis only questions whether she is a wise speaker choice. Without a doubt, she is controversial. She is a prospective Democratic candidate for president in 2016. It is not a positive to put her in front of an overwhelmingly conservative dealer audience.
NADA has made an illogical choice. They should have opted for someone more relevant to our industry, maybe Justin Bieber.
A larger issue is whether NADA is out of touch with its membership. With its administrative staff residing in the Washington Beltway, maybe they live in a culture that believes Hillary will be a wonderful speaker. But she does not play well in Dallas or among Heartland dealers I know.
Last year, I announced I would no longer speak or present at NADA convention workshops. I have presented almost every year since 1987 with great content and reviews.
My reason for discontinuing is I am not totally happy with the way the organization is handling the convention presentations. The perception is that industry vendors control who presents to the 20 groups. NADA executives cornered me at the last NADA convention and asked me to reconsider my decision to bow out.
Since the dealer disenfranchisement battles of 2009, NADA has faced more and more divided dealer loyalties. That issue was a no-win situation for the organization. They lost the hearts, minds and enthusiasm of many dealers. But in these tough times, we need a strong NADA more than ever.
The keynote speaker selection is more of a symptom than a disease. I’m a cheerleader for NADA President Peter Welch. NADA Chairman Dave Westcott has been a great friend for years. There is no ax to grind here. I would be glad to help NADA in any way I can to regain the former glory and unanimous dealer enthusiasm I first saw when I spoke at the 1987 convention.
But it would be wrong to refuse to notice the emperor has no clothes.
Well, another column draws to a close. No cognac toast this time. I am scheduled for knee-replacement surgery in August. I am in incredible pain. The surgeon and I are dealing with it.
I have had four surgeries including replacing my right knee twice. It’s all due to a weight lifting accident 40 years ago when I fell with nearly 700 lbs. (316 kg) on my shoulders. Through the years, it’s gotten worse. The surgery should put me back in fighting shape by October.
Keep those emails, text messages and phone calls coming. Find me on Facebook visit my websites. I love hearing from you.
Jim Ziegler is president of Ziegler Supersystems as well as a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reached at [email protected]. WardsAuto readers also may comment on this article by logging in or registering below.