LAS VEGAS – Car dealers are special people who shouldn’t let others characterize them, says Charlie Gilchrist in a keynote speech as the outgoing chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Assn.
“Our identity as auto dealers is unique,” he tells a general assembly audience at NADA’s annual convention and expo here, adding, “Don’t let others define who you are. Hold strong to your identity.”
Noting the auto industry sold 17.1 million new vehicles last year and that U.S. vehicle registrations surpass 278 million today, Gilchrist says:
“If you are an auto dealer, if you work in a dealership, our imprint on America is unmistakable, our contributions are undeniable, and our potential is immeasurable.”
He goes down a list of what NADA means to auto retailers.
“It means fighting for our franchise system,” he says. “It means holding our ground when Washington threatens our stability, so our employees and customers have security tomorrow. And it means doing it together, because one dealer can accomplish some things, but many dealers together can accomplish anything.”
Gilchrist heads Gilchrist Automotive, a 10-franchise dealership group in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He urges dealers to stay vigilant but optimistic.
In his speech, he addresses “so-called disruptions” to the dealer network and “myths about mobility,” such as the notion that Uber, Lyft and other growing mobility services will reduce the need for personal vehicle ownership, potentially hurting sales.
“Lightning-fast technology will continue to change vehicles for years to come,” he says. “But customers are still buying and owning their cars and trucks. And they’re still going to their local auto dealer to get them.”