8th February, 2017 ยท CEO Message

CEO Message No. 20

3 minutes to read

The Go-Between…

One of the most famous opening lines of any literary work in English comes from the L.P. Hartley novel, The Go-Between…

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”

The reason this sentence is quoted so often lies in its universality – we all can relate to the lingering nostalgic feeling that things just might have been better ‘back in the day’ – but were they? Really?

My wife Rhondda and I were Green Cards holders and we lived in the United States twice during my international career.

Last month, a quick visit to New Orleans for the NADA Convention gave me the opportunity to reflect on the degree of change in American society, and in the car business. I forced myself to ask the question: has America indeed changed so much that my past time there has become a ‘…foreign country…’ and one that I no longer recognise?

The clear message from the Convention is that American dealers are getting on with business with their usual determination and ingenuity. Contrary to what you might think from the output of 24/7 news cycle, these gritty and clever entrepreneurs are determined to ‘make America great again’ one business at a time – political challenges notwithstanding.

That’s a solid concept for us to embrace.

A look at the detailed NADA Convention agenda this year showed that while the macro-external forces shaping the national debate in United States must be attended to, franchised new car dealers in America and all over the world succeed, as always, by adroitly managing the complex details that our business throws up, and doing so with a relentless focus on performance.

That also was one theme in a brilliant keynote address delivered by Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company. He spoke about that great company’s resilience and determination to lead the industry into the next decade with product innovation and new business models.

Mark Fields
President & CEO Ford Motor Company

Interestingly, the NADA schedule included a workshop run by Randy Henrick and Associates.

Randy is a lawyer who operates as an auto dealer compliance consultant. Randy’s company helps US dealers set up and embed practical compliance policies that ensure dealer employees operate inside the myriad regulations now governing the auto business in the States.

It provided a glimpse into a possible future world for us.

So, while we cannot ignore the potential impact of the Vital Six regulatory challenges or the twenty additional issues on our so-called ‘long list’, we need to focus on what’s deliverable and practical. We must maintain and indeed ramp up our work with government legislators and regulators to ensure they understand our business – but at the same time you all know that we need to get on with running the stores, no matter what.

That was the key take-out from NADA 2017.

Our visit also gave us an opportunity to meet with key NADA office-bearers and to cement the good relationships between our organisations. We held a particularly successful International Relations Dinner attended by the out-going NADA Chairman Jeff Carlson and his wife Nancy.

David Blackhall with Jeff Carlson, Chairman NADA (R) & his wife Nancy

Past NADA Chairs Bill Fox and Jack Kain came along as well as key executives from the Brazilian, Canadian, Chinese, French and Italian dealer associations.

Back in Australia, important local business matters ramped up.

Last week we attended ASIC’s second Add-On Insurance working group meeting. Andrew Bunce, General Manager Financial Services AP Eagers gave up his valuable time to act as our expert fact holder on dealer process at this important meeting for which we thank him, and AP Eagers.

ASIC plans a series of these working groups this year and AADA will participate fully.

We also met with ASIC for an update on the flex commission issue. ASIC indicated that they anticipate a draft regulation by no later than February 28 and we will of course update you promptly as further information comes to hand.

This week we have Australian Motor Dealer Council delegates meeting in Melbourne and next week the AADA Board of Directors meets in Brisbane with a packed agenda.

As the month unfolds we anticipate key meetings in Canberra. Both houses of Federal Parliament are back in session until late February providing opportunities for us to consult with Ministers, and their staffs as well as the opposition and the minority parties – and there is much to discuss with our political leaders.

Please do not hesitate to call if you need assistance or guidance on specific topics, or with local political advocacy. As always, in the meantime…

Please enjoy Good luck, and Good Selling!