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Chairman’s Corner: Glad Tidings

As I write this last column as your HADA Chairman, I do so with the satisfaction that we have completed another good year in many respects, and I am looking forward to the New Year with optimism.

The regional and national economy is promising, the stock market is setting records and the political polarization is apparently not affecting business. So, I’m optimistic that this is all going to get past us and we will have less distractions once everything gets resolved.

Not every year can set a record, and this one will see a slight decline in Houston region sales. We do not have the final sales numbers for 2019, but year-to-year total and retail sales were down -12.4% and -10.8%, respectfully, through November, according to the TexAuto Facts Report published by InfoNation, Inc. for HADA.

The holiday push in December may improve those figures. Nevertheless, after 40 years in the business, this still looks like a good year to me. Moreover, with a national SAR that still might top the 17 million mark for the fifth straight year, I see no reason not to be positive about a strong 2020. In fact, NADA is forecasting new light-vehicle sales will come in at 16.8 million units for 2020, roughly a 1.2 percent drop from 2019 sales volume. That still ain’t bad!

HADA will be stoking sales momentum by kicking off the New Year with another expected record-breaking Houston Auto Show, January 22-26, 2020. The undisputed best and largest auto show in the South, this year’s show will feature more than 700 new vehicles from nearly 40 brands, with the opportunity to test drive a large variety of different models at NRG Center.

Visitors can expect to see hot, all-new vehicles like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and 2021 Kia Seltos or the Porsche Taycan, plus experience Camp Jeep, the Ram Test Track and the new “Lifestyle Mile” where the cars meet your way of life.

The 2019 Preview Night Charity Gala raised over $100,000 for the Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, and HADA has bigger plans for the upcoming roaring twenties themed Gala on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Benefits will go to four local charities: Bo’s Place, Duck’s Unlimited, Easter Seals of Greater Houston and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston. We hope to see you all there.

Your Voice was Heard!
Advocacy and franchise protection are key goals of an effective auto dealer association, and you will find no better representation, commitment and close coordination than that offered by HADA, TADA, NADA and AIADA.

The big news as I write this column is the House just passed a surprisingly nonpartisan new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Senate expects to ratify the bill in January, and President Trump presumably will sign it.

This legislation is a top priority of NADA and AIADA as a way to bring an end to trade uncertainty facing the auto industry and reduce the threat of any future tariffs on vehicles and auto parts. The USMCA tightens rules on origin for auto parts, requiring a larger share of cars to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour, and requires increased North American content in cars and trucks.

At the regional level, HADA and TADA worked closely together at this year’s legislative session in Austin to resolve the complicated Tesla issue as well as new issues concerning loaner car auto insurance, modern ownership structure, vehicle recall information and auto body shops legislation. Leading that charge were two HADA directors; Donnie Buckalew, this year’s chairman of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, and Joe Chastang, chairman of the TADA Legislative Committee.
I would also offer big HADA congratulations to Darren Whitehurst, recently named the new President of TADA, who is replacing our longtime colleague Bill Wolters. We look forward to working with Darren, and wish all the best to Bill on retirement and thank him for his many years of dedication to Texas dealers.

In closing, I want to reflect on what an honor it has been to be your HADA chairman. This is my second time around. I was chairman 18 years ago, and a lot has changed in our business in those years. But. I have complete faith that dealers will continue to adapt and thrive because we are still an integral part of the automobile business.

What has not changed are the enthusiasm, commitment and camaraderie I have experienced with the HADA staff, Board of Directors and membership. This association is one of the best in the nation. We all get along and stay involved for the good of the industry.

As I pass the Chairman’s gavel to W.C. Smith of Monument Chevrolet, I do so with the absolute confidence that HADA members are in very capable hands and facing a bright future.

Happy New Year everyone!