Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bishops, Cardinals and Trick Plays

I started working with kids in the summer of 1976 when I was the Assistant Summer Rec Director for the City of Chamberlain. Eventually I was the director and went on to coach baseball, basketball and football. I have worked with kids in some way ever since - some forty plus years.

When my wife and I moved from Omaha to Des Moines in 1984, I volunteered to coach a baseball team. The boys were 12-14 years old and we had a good summer. I enjoyed working with them and I believe the boys had fun. We were respectable - I think we were about .500.

Toward the end of the season, one of the fathers asked me if I'd be interested in coaching the St. Theresa's Cardinals. We belonged to St. Theresa's Parish and several of the boys on the baseball team would be on the football team so I agreed to coach them.

So later that summer, I went to an organizational meeting at one of the other Catholic churches in Des Moines. I could tell from the minute I entered the room that this was not going to be like my baseball experience earlier that summer. The room smelled like testosterone and I think I saw guys keep getting up and peeing in the corner!! This room was full of guys determined to relive their football glory days!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 2017 SDADA Column

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
 -Wizard of Oz

Yes the "witch" is dead. Consumer Finance Protect Bureau Director Richard Cordray announced his resignation from the post by the end of November. It seems like my entire term as your NADA Director has been dotted with conflicts with Cordray and his overreaching agency.

Cordray has been on a crusade to eliminate our ability to discount interest rates for our customers ever since he took command of the most unaccountable agency in Washington. His legacy at the CFPB will be that of ruling by extortion and coercion.

I sat in a meeting in June of 2016 where he arrogantly told dealers and auto lenders that he was going to reduce our "dealer markup" (finance reserve) to a flat fee. He had no fear of retribution from anyone because he was accountable to no one!

Because of a specific exclusion for regulation of automobile dealers in the Dodd-Frank law that created the CFPB, Cordray has sought to get at dealers by overstepping its authority on regulating auto lenders since day one.

If you can't tell, I am rejoicing in this news and wishing the entire agency could die a quick death. Short of that, the best thing that can happen is for President Trump and Congress to take this opportunity to overhaul the CFPB and create some accountability.

I'm am now considering how to celebrate the demise of the "wicked witch". Perhaps some (amber) spirits would be in order!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September 2017 SDADA Column

As I write this, Senator Thune and the Senate Commerce Committee are preparing legislation to advance self-driving vehicles or Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs). As dealers, our concern is that this legislation could preempt certain state laws including our South Dakota franchise law.

While Congress seeks uniform regulation of self-driving vehicles to avoid a state patchwork that would hamper deployment of these vehicles, Congress must also ensure that the states’ traditional role to regulate motor vehicle commerce within its borders is preserved as applied to self-driving vehicles.

On Sept. 6, the House approved H.R. 3388, the “SELF DRIVE Act” by voice vote.  Bipartisan language to clarify that Congress does not intend to preempt state vehicle licensing/franchise laws as applied to self-driving vehicles was included in the bill.

The Senate Commerce Committee must ensure that their legislation explicitly preserves state vehicle licensing and franchise laws as well. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we will have crossed this threshold without incident.

NADA will be watching to ensure state laws are protected!

Friday, September 1, 2017

You Scratch my Back

Our last family pet, Repo, an English Springer Spaniel, had this annoying habit of picking up the gray landscape rocks around our house and carrying them out into the middle of the yard and dropping them. Of course, this made mowing the yard hazardous because those rocks became missiles when the mower ran over one of them.

We had rocks go through two different windows and the homeowners insurance carrier even threatened to drop us because of that (don't even get me started on that!).

I had never really watched Repo long enough to understand why he would do such a stupid thing. I attributed it to his constant need for something in his mouth.

One day, after returning from a productive day afield, we were cleaning pheasants out in the yard and one of my fellow hunters was watching Repo take a rock from near the house out to the middle of the yard. He asked me about that habit and I dropped a few choice words indicating my disapproval of the habit and went back to the ringneck at hand.

Shortly thereafter, he was marveling at what a smart dog Repo was. I suggested that he might have gotten into the barley pop a bit early. He pointed out that Repo was rolling on the rock he had deposited in the yard, scratching his back blissfully.

As I watched, it was true. I walked over, grabbed the rock and deposited it next to the house in its intended spot.

A few minutes later, Repo had snatched another rock and was laying on his back, squirming away, driving the rock between the shoulders blades, where apparently, the itch was just too much to handle.

Learning the reason behind the annoying habit didn't make me like it any better - but at least I understood!

"This one should REALLY do the trick!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Bird in the Hand

My son Alex has a friend who, when they were in high school, had never hunted pheasants despite living in the "Mount Rushmore State" his entire life. So we decided in the fall of 2006, it was time for Joe to shoot his first rooster. So, on a crisp Saturday afternoon in October, we took Joe with us in pursuit of the South Dakota ringneck pheasant.

After an hour-long trip to our hunting property, we met our hunting partners, did the obligatory hunting safety session, loaded our weapons and spread out across the first field of the afternoon.

In a scene familiar to any pheasant hunter, we were making our way through a field on a line with those on the ends slightly ahead of the rest to give them a chance to shoot at a pheasant that might try to make its way out the side.

Joe was strategically positioned at the far right end of the line in hopes that he might have a better chance to get a shot there. It seemed that all the birds were getting up and flying straight away from us into the wind.

Finally a rooster pheasant got up in front of the left side of the line and veered to the right giving everyone a chance to shoot at it. Everyone did shoot at it and as it flew across the line of 10-12 hunters from left to right, shooters unloaded their guns at the bird.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 2017 SDADA Column

In June I attend the American Financial Services Association (AFSA)/NADA Executive Forum in
Washington, DC. These two trade association sponsor this event each year to discuss topics that affect automotive lending. Almost all captive and large automotive lenders were represented at the forum.

The lenders top concerns included cyber security, falling vehicles values and management of ancillary products. Dealers' top concerns were pressure on profitability, new regulatory threats by the CFPB and FTC, and existing regulatory and legal compliance challenges.

It was the first time in several years that regulatory threats did not top both lists. While regulatory threats still loom, it is telling that both lenders and dealers feel other perils have surpassed those.

While a business-friendly administration should keep the regulatory threats at bay, both organizations will have to stay vigilant and watch the beltway regulators!

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 2017 SDADA Column

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.

– John Perry Barlow

New technology related to connected cars is evolving quickly. Many of the new features associated with this connectivity require new types of data, which puts privacy in the spotlight for manufacturers, government and consumers. Needless to say, that means that the dealers need to be on top of the issue as well.

When that vehicle is traded and that info remains, both the customer and the dealer remain at risk. Do you have a procedure for deleting the info from a trade?

The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) released a first-of-its kind consumer guide, Personal Data In Your Car. The Guide helps consumers understand the kind of personal information collected by the latest generation of vehicles, which use data to further safety, infotainment and customer experience.

The Guide describes several components that are integral to properly protecting consumer data. For example, services that collect and share personal information should be accompanied by a clear privacy policy. The reality is that yes, cars are starting to know more about you, but what it knows may save your life.

Personal Data In Your Car highlights that nearly all leading automakers have committed to protecting consumer information by committing to the Automotive Privacy Principles. These Principles guide privacy practices in the automotive industry. They went into effect beginning with model year 2017 vehicles and for subscription services beginning on January 2, 2016.

This guide will help you and your customer protect their private information.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kruising on the Krawdaddy

These  moments  we're  left  with
May  you  always  remember  
These  moments  are  shared  by  few  
And  those  harbor  lights,  lord,  they're  coming  into  view 
We'll  bid  our  farewells  much  too  soon  
So  drink  it  up,  this  one's  for  you 
Honey,  it's  been  a  lovely  cruise  
“Lovely  Cruise”  -  Johnathan  Baham,  1977

The Kradaddy sits in Cedar Shore marina

In the spring of 1999, as I was frantically trying to secure tickets for the Final Four in Tampa, I was concurrently bidding on a boat. I had looked at the boat before leaving town and had set a limit for my proxy bidder. When I learned I was the high bidder, I wasn't sure if I was the winner or the loser!

This is the story of that boat and the ten great summers on Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River that followed. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 2017 SDADA Column

In this space last month, you may recall that I hoped that President Trump would bring some common sense to the idea of clean air standards and fuel economy. I suggested that dealers  just want affordable options that serve our customers needs. If those are electric, fuel cell or other alternative energy options, that is fine.

Well, in the "Be Careful What You Ask For" file, President Donald Trump recently ordered a review of U.S. vehicle fuel-efficiency standards put in place by Obama. The move is viewed as a victory to the  auto industry and it incited criticism from Democrats and environmental groups.

While this order is simply to review the industry-wide standard of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 that the Obama administration and the EPA called for, it is a move widely seen as a prelude to relaxing fuel standards.

The 2011 deal called for the EPA to conduct a “mid-term review” of rules for 2022-25 by April 2018. Just before leaving office, however, Obama decided to forgo the 2018 review and ruled that no change in the regulations was warranted for 2022-25.

While Trump took this action in the name of a larger movement to  will pursue tax and regulatory policies that would benefit U.S. manufacturers, it has a more direct impact on ag country dealers and our customers.

As I said in my column last month, there is not a 50 MPG pickup that will do what farmers, ranchers and other commercial customers need it to do - at least not at a price point that will work for them.

I think I speak for ALL automobile dealers when I say just let us sell what our customers want at a price they can afford!

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 2017 SDADA Column

What does a 50 mpg pickup look like? Is it something that your customers would drive? Would it
serve the utility that your customers need from their truck?

Those questions embody what is at stake in the current and ongoing battle over clean air standards. In 2011, the Obama administration and the EPA called for an industry-wide standard of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The deal called for the EPA to conduct a “mid-term review” of rules for 2022-25 by April 2018.

The EPA, acting before Trump's inauguration, ruled on Jan. 13 that no change in the regulations was warranted for 2022-25. The auto industry was caught a bit off-guard by this development and they are not be happy about the quick and rather incomplete "review".

Auto executives want Trump to roll back clean-air standards. They feel that the standards are too rigorous and could cost America jobs.

One of the problems in attaining such high MPG standards is consumers' appetite, or lack thereof, for electric vehicles. Certainly, South Dakota dealers do not see a rush of consumers knocking down the doors to get electric vehicles. I have yet to have one of my ag producer customers ask me when an electric 3/4 ton pickup would be available to pull his stock trailer.

Hopefully, the Trump administration can bring a common sense approach to the idea of clean air standards and fuel economy. As dealers, we just want affordable options that serve our customers needs. If those are electric, fuel cell or other alternative energy options, that is fine.

Just let us sell what our customers want at a price they can afford!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Time to Feed the Wolf!

One of the more famous fables (short story, typically with animals as characters, that conveys a moral) of Aesop, a slave and story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece, was about the boy who cried "wolf".

The story is about a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. Finally, when one actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers do not come, thinking that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf.

So it is with the new generation of weather forecasters. It is unheard of for them to offer any forecast without some alert, watch or warning - no matter how insignificant or ridiculous. It's the ultimate in too much information - traditional media, social media, government agencies, etc.

As I look at my favorite weather website currently, there is an alert that today's (2/10/2017) forecast is to be MUCH WARMER than yesterday. IT'S 56 DEGREES ON FEBRUARY 11TH! DOES ANYONE REALLY NEED THAT ALERT! (Of course this is right next to the social media icons so I can sign up to have these brilliant insights sprinkled into EVERY facet of my life!)

One recent practice is naming winter storms - as if those of us in the Midwest were somehow cheated by not being able to refer to our snow storms by name like hurricanes. Those hurricane names sound so cool and ominous! Never mind that about 25 percent of all predicted blizzards/winter storms amount to anything more that a bit of snow blow up against the side of the building.

Meteorologists will name a storm (Atlas, Neptune, Hercules, Zeus, or some other godly name) and then predict 6-12 inches of snow. If you've ever been around 6-12 inches of snow, you know that is like projecting a car payment of $200-1200. There is a difference!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Explorers Win 2016 Volunteers of the Year

The CMS Explorers won the 2016 Volunteers of the Year Award from the Chamberlain-Oacoma Chamber of Commerce. The group accepted their award at the annual Chamber luncheon on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Each year, the Chamber gives the award to a person/group that makes a difference in the community by volunteering.

The Explorers Club is a service club for 6-8th grade boys. For more than sixteen years, the organization has served the Chamberlain-Oacoma community and school through fundraising and various service projects. In 2011, St. Joseph's Indian School students joined for the first time and now are active participants in the club.

Since its inception in 2001. the group has raised over $100,000 for their community and school. While that is a significant sum of money, Chamberlain city engineer, Greg Powell,  has said in the past, the Explorers have helped start and fund over $500,000 in projects for Chamberlain including ball fields, playground equipment, swimming pool equipment, fishing piers and other infrastructure.

That money has been used for a new baseball field, scoreboard and lights, a new soccer field, new playground equipment, a new picnic shelter, trees, new slides and other equipment for the municipal swimming pool, a fishing pier in the municipal campground, audio-visual equipment and an AED device for the school, the "Meals on Wheels" program,  Relay for Life, new flag poles at Avenue of Flags, playground equipment at American Creek Park, equipment at Tri-County Veterans Park and a disc (or frisbee) golf course among other things.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 2017 SDADA Column

NADA began when a group of 30 dealers came to Washington to fight a proposed 5% luxury tax on new vehicles. Advocating for their customers, these dealers successfully argued the automobile is a necessity, not a luxury. Those dealers won that argument and NADA is still fighting for dealers, their employees and their customers 100 years later.

In a time when all trade associations are struggling to find a way to be relevant to their members, NADA still boasts a 90%-plus membership rate. NADA truly is the "Voice of the Dealer" in all it says and does.

Our association has, in Peter Welch, a President and CEO second to none. We have an exceedingly knowledgeable and ultimately professional staff that is always "looking around the next corner" to help protect and advise dealer-members of both threats and opportunities.

I have been fortunate to serve as your NADA Director since August of 2007. In the 9+ years that I have served as director, I have had occasions to fight on the front lines with many of these fine people against threats from the manufacturers, legislators, regulators and disruptors that face our business. I can report that I'd much rather have them on my team than be facing them. They are formidable foes!

The National Automobile Dealers Association is us. It is the dealers in all 50 states; large and small; multi-point dealers and single point dealers; import and domestic; in metro areas and in rural communities; publicly owned and privately held; working together to make our industry better for our businesses, our employees and our customers.

Let us all celebrate that! As we look forward to our nest century, let us remind ourselves that our success lies in our employees and our customers. When we serve them, our industry thrives!

Happy birthday, NADA!