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Dealers Rise to the Challenges

  • Chris Poulos, HADA Chairman

Hello HADA members and friends. I’m back! As you may recall, I held this chair in 2015. Aside from some miserable weather that year, I guess you could call it the good ‘ole days of ample inventories, strong sales, and good profits.

Compare that to the unprecedented challenges dealers faced in 2020 and 2021. I’m talking, of course, about an unparalleled inventory shortage and a coronavirus pandemic that, while waning, seemingly just won’t go away. My hat is off to my predecessors, W.C. Smith and Roger Elswick, for their leadership role during this tough period.

So what’s in store for dealers this year? I don’t think anyone expects a quick end to the microchip shortage and multiple supply chain issues that have plagued and delayed the building of new vehicles. Nonetheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Most OEMs are beginning to indicate a return to normal production levels before year’s end as chip shortages ease. We all hope so, the sooner the better.

In the meantime, I am optimistic that dealers will continue to show the resilience and ingenuity that has allowed us to survive and prosper. In the beginning, it was “Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?” But, dealers have figured out we can make it with light inventory. Good demand is still out there which has allowed for price increases. It’s a supply and demand model that can work for us.

We have always found a way to make it and, frankly, we’ve found a way to thrive in this current environment and that’s going to make us all stronger. We know things can turn on a dime but I think right now everybody is in a position to go with the flow, whether it is good or challenging.

With a serious lack of workforce today, however, I think one thing we are going to have to do is really focus on developing our people. In addition, we still have to be aggressive about selling and finding new solutions for any new issues.

The best example of thinking outside the box, and adjusting to the times with a unique approach, was the recent Houston Auto and Boat Show. For the first time ever the Houston Auto Show and the Houston Boat Show combined events and the result brought nearly 70,000 land and sea lovers together for a spectacular five-day event.

After realizing the hit the pandemic brought on inventory in both the automobile and boat industries, the two Houston shows teamed up to build the largest event of its kind. Instead of having individual shows, which were destined to be below normal in attendance, the combined show felt like a mammoth, giant-packed event.

Wyatt Wainwright, our HADA President, told me ‘We saw the opportunity to bring similar events together, which turned out to be a great fit for both auto, and marine demographics.’ They both created an unprecedented event that turned out to be a huge success and something we’re likely to consider again.

Boat dealers reported selling more than 100 boats over the five days and vendors had record sales. On the Auto Show side, where sales are prohibited, about 60 percent of attendees expressed interest in purchasing a new vehicle from a local dealership within the next six months.  

I think those stats alone give us a positive outlook for 2022. I know many dealers are experiencing success, just working hard and working smart. We’ve been through some of the hardest times in the car business over the past couple of years, and we all right-sized our businesses and became better business people for the long term. Every time we hit a bump in the road we find a way through and come out looking good. I know I’m still looking forward to another great year! 

In closing, I want you to know, I agreed to become HADA chairman again because I am very proud of the active role HADA takes in our community. I consider it a high honor to represent Houston’s committed new vehicle dealers.