19th December, 2016 · CEO Message

CEO Message No. 19

4 minutes to read


Otto von Bismark, the so-called Iron Chancellor, was a remarkable politician and visionary leader. He almost single-handedly created the German nation out of the Prussian Empire and subsequently manipulated a long-lasting European peace through his skillful diplomacy. We could use a few more like him today…

Along the way he coined more than a few memorable phrases.

One of his most famous observations was that as regards sausages and laws, it’s better not to watch them being made.

Otto von Bismark German Chancellor 1871 – 1890

If we reflect on the law-making processes in Canberra since the July election it seems the Iron Chancellor got it right – it looks a lot like making sausages. Many ingredients go into the hopper and the products that emerge can be problematic – and sometimes not that appetising!

With 2016 rapidly heading to a close we look back on a year of intense activity. The unremitting and sometimes difficult-to-understand selective focus on our industry by regulators placed significant stress on our small Secretariat. The team responded magnificently and we did not miss a deadline while at the same time the submissions were of the highest professional standard.

I want to publicly thank Michael Deed, Daniel Brown, Kathy Winkcup and the supporting teams of professional advisors and dealer members in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Canberra for service well above and beyond the call of duty.

As I write, we have just completed our submission to Treasury on the CAANZ review of the Australian Consumer Law. The follows back-to-back submissions on the ASIC review of flex commissions, and the ACCC review of so-called add-on insurance products.

These were followed by the ACCC Market Study into New Car Retailing which required us to work to another tight, aggressive timeline of just under one month.

Immediately following the receipt of submissions, the ACCC Market Study team conducted a stakeholders’ forum in Melbourne. Commissioner Sarah Court chaired this meeting which was also attended by ACCC Chairman Rod Sims and other senior ACCC executives.

This was an interesting day with about fifty participants advocating a wide variety of opinions on the three broad discussion areas of guarantees and warranties, access to data and repair information and the accuracy and appropriateness of consumer information on vehicle labels.

Franchised new car dealers’ interests were well represented in the debate and I felt that we got our important points across to the audience. We were particularly fortunate that Martin Ward, CEO of the AP Eagers Group was able to attend. There’s nothing like the regulators hearing directly from a large and successful retail operator.

Alongside this activity we were also busy wrapping up the year with important ministerial contacts.

Earlier this month we were able to meet with the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Urban Infrastructure. Minister Fletcher has conduct of the review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act and the associated government policy proposals concerning the private parallel import of new cars. The Minister was particularly interested to understand how our franchised new car dealer business model works and the likely impact on it from the policy and regulatory perspective.

We also attended a meeting with the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Minister Hunt set out his macro and micro reform priorities for the next three years and asked for input on possible future automotive pathways for industry. These initiatives could result in policies with possible implications for retailers in the future, so it is important that AADA remains involved in the process.

Through the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry we were able to spend some social time with Greg Medcraft, Chairman, ASIC. Mr Medcraft indicated his awareness of our issues and of the progress on matters under review. Again, it’s all about ensuring AADA is active and is a recognised entity in the policy formulation and deployment processes.

ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft (centre) with AADA CEO David Blackhall (R) and AADA PR Advisor Ray Kennedy (L)

Late in the week we received some timely news on customer satisfaction scores in the car industry. Our Communications and Social Media Officer Daniel Brown picked up on the latest Roy Morgan consumer satisfaction survey (see link below and also on the AADA website). To quote Roy Morgan directly…

Across all 35 categories in the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards, Car Manufacturers have the highest overall rate of customer satisfaction. 92 percent of drivers report being very or fairly satisfied by their current vehicle make—well above the industry norms for banks and super funds, telecommunications and utilities providers, retailers and supermarkets, airlines and hotels.

If there is a surprise gift that Santa could drop under our Christmas tree it would be that our industry gets proper recognition for the tremendous gains that the OEMs and franchised new car dealers have made, working together, to drive the highest levels of customer satisfaction ever recorded in the industry.

On that positive note, and as this is the last newsletter for 2016, allow me to wish you a peaceful and relaxing holiday season shared with families and loved ones.

It has been an honour to represent you and our industry during my first six months at the helm of AADA. I am looking forward to 2017 with great energy and enthusiasm.

Peace and good wishes!


David Blackhall
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Automotive Dealer Association Ltd