Mike Stanton, the recently appointed president and CEO of the National Automobile Dealers Assn., lists a couple of priorities Thursday in his first major speech at the NADA Convention & Expo.
No.1 continues to be the COVID-19 pandemic. One of NADA’s biggest achievements in 2020 was getting dealerships declared “essential” businesses in the early days of the pandemic, allowing service and parts departments to stay open, even if showrooms had to close temporarily in many states.
“The pandemic is certainly our first priority,” he says. “We will be there to help navigate all the way through this. We will continue to be flexible and nimble as we work our way back to something like normalcy, hopefully sometime soon.”
Close behind that is making sure a new administration, its appointees, a new U.S. Congress and new staffers in Washington are familiar with the concerns of the retail auto business.
“There are a lot of new faces in town,” Stanton says. “We need to educate our policymakers to make sure they understand our business.”
Stanton is not one of those new faces, not by a long shot. A Washington, D.C., native, he joined NADA in 2000, and he was chief operating officer before he was appointed to his new job effective Jan. 1. He succeeds former president and CEO Peter Welch, who retired.
Thursday marked Stanton’s first major speech to the membership at an NADA show, albeit virtual.
“With the retirement of Peter Welch, frankly, I thought it was going to be pretty hard to fill his shoes,” says NADA 2021 Chairman Paul Walser, sharing the stage with Stanton. “It turns out, we didn’t have to look too far.” Walser is CEO of Walser Automotive Group of Bloomington, MN.
“The mission at NADA stays the same,” Stanton says. “We work for the dealer. We’re here to strengthen the franchise system, to help educate and advocate for the dealer business.”