Dear Colorado Dealer:
All of us in CADA should be very proud that one of our own – Jeff Carlson of Glenwood Springs Ford, Glenwood Springs Subaru and Summit Ford of Silverthorne – has been representing us on the board of the National Automobile Dealers Association and as NADA’s elected chairman since January of this year. Jeff has been in the automobile business since 1973, when he went to work for Ford Motor Company. He sat down recently to talk to us about NADA, CADA and what he’s been working on since being elected chairman.
Jeff has gained some amazing experience and knowledge through his work in NADA, which he says has been “incredible, so far. It’s a very time-consuming responsibility but very gratifying…It’s always good when we have someone in the industry who becomes prominent at the national level.”
Not surprisingly for someone who’s been sales manager and then owner of a dealership Jeff says, “The best part of the job is being involved with people in the industry at all levels. It’s a phenomenally large contributor to all aspects of the economy, whether it be sales of automobiles, collecting taxes, the charitable things that dealers, manufacturers and suppliers all do, while still continuing to meet all the regulatory requirements. Those are sometimes difficult to understand but we do it and we do it with private capital and contribute back to our communities, state and national welfare.”
“The auto industry led the economic recovery since the 2008 downturn. It’s one of the most interesting things I like to share with the public. We’ve sold almost 100 million new vehicles. That’s astounding because there are only about 330 million people in the country. That’s a lot of turnover. Cars have never been cleaner as it pertains to the environment. In fact, cars have never been safer, cleaner or more fuel-efficient. Low interest rates have contributed to affordability…We’re doing good things for consumers and we want to continue.”
Jeff says a major goal has been to focus on consumers and what’s going on that’s affecting the affordability of new cars. “We rely on our customers. Dealers are nothing without them.” He’s been very happy over the way NADA has worked with Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter on H.R. 1737 (Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act) to end Consumer Financial Protection Bureau overreach on auto financing that drives up credit costs and takes away the right every consumer has to negotiate lower financing. That’s a relationship that began when Rep. Perlmutter was in the Colorado legislature and has continued successfully and expanded to include national issues. The CFPB reform bill is now in the U.S. Senate as S. 2663.
Another consumer-focused issue is preserving the ability of consumers to get full value for their trade-ins by preventing overly broad legislation that would prohibit dealers from selling or wholesaling any used vehicle under open recall, no matter how small the recall issue is or whether it affects the vehicle’s overall safety and operation (H.R. 1181/S. 900). With parts shortages these vehicles can take months to repair and could impact dealers’ willingness to take and pay good prices for trade-ins under recalls, and that would lead to higher prices for consumers.
A third affordability issue is “the midterm evaluation coming up next year on the EPA’s fuel-economy standard…When you add these all up, in the next several years, affordability of automobiles becomes a serious issue. It’s my No. 1 concern and something I talk about frequently.”
According to Carlson, efforts on these consumer-focused issues stand as the best example of how NADA, and on a state level CADA, benefit dealers. “They are our presence in legislative and regulatory arenas. They’re present representing dealers when dealers can’t be there. Dealers are doing what they do, including remitting tax revenues and don’t always have the time to watch everything that’s happening in the state legislatures or in Washington, D.C. So NADA and CADA are always present. That’s a value that’s sometimes taken for granted…you only feel it when something bad has already happened. NADA and CADA’s goal is to avoid those events by being proactive in the legislative arenas.”
Jeff likens NADA and CADA to meteorologists and firefighters. “We ask our associations to predict the unknown and then when it happens they’re the first responders who come in and take care of the problems. I think CADA is performing at a very high level. It could be better if their crystal ball was clear enough that they could see the future and somehow prevent whatever is out there. I believe CADA and Tim Jackson are highly regarded among state dealer associations. Tim is renowned for his energy and for what I call his exposure and engagement. He engages dealers in the political process. CADA’s been the top state performing on objectives in our NADA PAC.”
Jeff particularly praises CADA’s efforts to recruit younger dealers. “Tim takes younger dealers and managers and exposes them to our nation’s capitol at the Washington Conference (coming up next month). They get to see the actual legislative process and get a great appreciation for what it is. You can’t put that in a video and have it have the same impact.”
Acknowledging that younger dealers and managers are still trying to build careers and businesses and may not have as much time to spend on CADA (but perhaps applying to all CADA members), Jeff says, “I believe that dealers who have not been in a board role in a state or national association cannot have a full appreciation of what all their association does for them. Until you’ve walked in those shoes you do not know what you’ve missed.”
He’s enthusiastic about what’s coming up in the second half of his term. Is he exhausted by the huge amount of travel and the number of meetings he’s attended? “Not yet. I enjoy traveling and I enjoy the opportunity to be among other dealers in other venues and seeing what their challenges are. It’s very energizing!” That said, he was off to visit dealers in Montana and then on to Brazil for a few days.
Fletcher Flower, CADA Chairman