LAS VEGAS – A ranking member of an international-nameplate dealer group blasts President Obama for only visiting domestic-brand car exhibits at the recent Washington auto show.
The president briefly stopped by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler displays. “But he never visited a single one of our brands,” Jim Smail says in his speech as outgoing chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Assn. “That really p---ed me off.”
He says Obama’s short visitors’ list at the show fails to recognize the billions of dollars non-domestic brands have invested in the U.S. auto industry, from factories to dealerships.
“We all pay taxes and we were ignored by our president,” Smail says at the AIADA’s annual luncheon and meeting here during the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention.
The group is sensitive about such things and quickly draws battle lines when it sees federal government actions, policies and legislative proposals that threaten its interests.
Smail faintly praises Obama for signing the tariff-reducing Korean free-trade agreement late last year. “Finally, this administration saw the benefit,” the Pennsylvania dealer says.
Succeeding Smail as AIADA chairman is Ray Mungenast. He vows to combat taxes, regulations and what he calls “buy-American” policies that could punish the trade group’s members.
“AIADA will fight to the end to protect this industry,” he says. “We want to be remembered for what we stood for, and for what we stood against.”
Mungenast heads the St. Louis-based Mungenast Automotive Family. It includes Acura, Honda, Hyundai, Lexus and Toyota franchises. His father, the late David F. Mungenast, served as AIADA chairman and became one of the nation’s first Honda and Toyota auto dealers in the 1960s.
The AIDA’s lifetime achievement award is named for him. This year’s recipients are Rick and Rita Case of the Rick Case Automotive Group. It owns 15 dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Ohio. The husband-and-wife dealer team supports 30 charities.
“Their dedication not only to their business but also to their community provides an example for dealers nationwide,” says AIADA President Cody Lusk.
Despite the challenges over the past few years, people in the auto industry “never gave up on this business,”says Mark Templin, Toyota’s Lexus Div. sales chief for the U.S., noting the auto industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the nation.
“Our industry is responsible for 8 million American jobs and has a $500 billion payroll. That ranks behind only the Defense Department and Social Security,” he says.
“In addition, our industry plans to add 150,000 new jobs over the next four years. And that’s great news because we’re going to need all hands on deck.”