New NADA Chair Will Help Dealers Navigate New FTC Rules, EV Mandates

Gary Gilchrist brings an affinity for training, customer satisfaction and the franchise system to his new role.

Nancy Dunham, Principal Analyst/Retail

February 3, 2024

4 Min Read
Gilchrist24
Gary Gilchrist is the 2024 NADA Chairman.NADA

NADA attendees who stop by the Main Stage at 9 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Las Vegas Convention Center have a chance to hear incoming NADA Chairman Gary Gilchrist explain his plans for the coming year. Prior to the show, the president of Gilchrist Chevrolet Buick GMC Inc., Tacoma, WA, spoke with WardsAuto about his passion for the franchise system, his devotion to customer satisfaction and how he plans to lead dealers through the new challenges ahead. 

Here’s an edited version of the conversation:  

 WardsAuto: Tell us a bit about your background in automotive and how you became involved in NADA. 

Gilchrist: I am the third-generation dealer of Gilchrist Auto Center in Tacoma, WA. I never planned to join the family business and went to college to pursue an entirely different career. But my connection to my family drew me back, and 47 years later, I’ve never done anything else. 

  The best gift my parents ever gave me was my brother John. We did everything together – from playing high school football to taking over our family’s dealership. John and I worked together for 44 years. In 2015, John was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After undergoing conventional treatments without success, John went through three clinical trials arranged by South Sound CARE, giving John healthy years to pursue his passions. John passed in 2020, and in his memory, I continue to support the South Sound Care Foundation’s important work. 

  Now, John’s daughter Stephanie and my son Nick are the fourth generation leading Gilchrist Auto, which has given me more time and energy to give back to the community and the industry. There are always ways to get involved and help grow the industry; I was first involved with my state association, the Washington State Auto Dealers Assn. Then, about a decade ago, my mentor got me more involved in NADA. When the director for Washington stepped down in 2017, I jumped at the opportunity to run. 

 Education and training have always been a big part of my operations as a dealer. I translated that into my early work at NADA, where I took a strong interest in dealer operations, including NADA Academy and 20 Groups. 

  WardsAuto: When did you first attend a NADA national conference and what are your standout memories? 

  Gilchrist: I have been attending NADA shows for nearly a decade. The annual show is the best opportunity to interact with the entire industry at once – my fellow dealers, manufacturers, vendors and experts. I always leave with new connections, tangible strategies to implement at my stores and, of course, some fun memories. 

WardsAuto: What was it that made you seek/accept the chairmanship? 

  Gilchrist: I have a strong passion for this industry and the franchise system. It all comes back to the customer experience. That is what I fight for every day as a dealer. I am excited to work with the NADA professional staff and the OEMs to advocate for the franchise system and our customers. 

  WardsAuto: You have a lot to tackle this year regarding EVs, lower profit margins for dealers and even ongoing buy-sell activity. Tell us a bit about what challenges you see as priorities and how you hope to tackle them. 

  Gilchrist: The biggest priority for franchised new-car and truck dealers will always be the customer experience, and we have two obstacles to that this year. The first is the FTC Vehicle Shopping Rule, which NADA is challenging in court. This will make the vehicle-buying process longer and more confusing for consumers. 

  The second are current EV mandates, which hinder consumer choice. Franchised dealers share the goal of lowering emissions and electrifying the fleet – believe me, we want to sell the cars! But the EPA mandates are too far, too fast. The infrastructure isn’t there yet and the vehicles aren’t affordable for most Americans. We are hoping the EPA considers plug-in hybrids as a way to transition to full electrification. 

WardsAuto: If attendees take away one or two lessons from this conference, what do you want those to be?  

Gilchrist: It’s hard to narrow it down. NADA Show is always a whirlwind of learning, whether it’s from fellow dealers, manufacturer updates, new products and services on the expo floor or our Main Stage speakers. I’m especially excited about the Women Driving Auto Retail event, which is all-day for the first time. I’m proud to see NADA leading the charge in bringing more women into the industry. I also always encourage dealers to bring their teams to participate in the education workshops. Our business is always changing, and this is the perfect time to refresh your training and knowledge. 

  Editor’s note: Gary Gilchrist is slated to give his inaugural address at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, on the main stage at the 2024 NADA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

About the Author(s)

Nancy Dunham

Principal Analyst/Retail, WardsAuto

Nancy Dunham became an auto journalist more than twenty years ago. She has worked as an editor and writer for the National Automobile Dealers Association, US News & World Report, CarFax, and various newspapers in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Her work also appears in Costco Connections, AARP, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and other publications.

Before specializing in automotive retail journalism, she was a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and publisher.

She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her three beloved cats.

Contact her at [email protected] or https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancydwrites/.

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.