By. Roger Elswick
I would like to begin as your HADA Chairman with a big thanks to Houston area dealers for allowing me this high honor. I pledge, as I did as your South Texas NADA Director, to do the absolute best job I can to represent all our members and our industry.
I would also like to offer my sincere appreciation to my predecessor, W.C. Smith, for all his efforts during a miserable year. W.C. managed well, finished strong, and remained optimistic looking forward.
I share that optimism. With the covid-19 crisis seemingly plateauing, and with a vaccine on the near horizon, I see a gradual return to normalcy and stronger auto sales and profits.
The latest TexAuto Facts Report from InfoNation, Inc. confirms that 2020 was a very tough year, with 248,034 vehicles sold in the Houston Region. That is a significant drop compared to the banner years of 2019 with 292,606 units sold, 2018 with 303,385 units sold and 2017 at 290,354 units sold.
However, the report also showed a jump in third quarter 2020 sales over the second quarter and further gains in the fourth quarter of 2020. Aside from October, which was way off, possibly due to election uncertainty, November and December sales continued to build momentum.
I think Houston’s economy will continue to strengthen with more companies relocating to Texas, along with an upward trend in the employment arena. Plus, with the change in the Washington administration, it will be interesting to see what gas prices do and how it will affect the car market. Higher prices would be good for Houston.
We still have challenges. Our inventory levels are still on the low side and many manufacturers are struggling with computer chip supplies that affects our brands. However, we continue to have a strong market in comparison with production issues. As the TexAuto Facts Report concludes, “2021 is expected to be a healthier year in vehicle sales.”
My advice to dealers is keep your foot on the gas. At our Community dealerships, we did not lay anybody off in 2020 or cut any advertising, and I think I was rewarded for those efforts with a particularly good year. I am happy with it and will continue with that business strategy.
Regarding public policy, HADA and our state legislative committee is gearing up for the upcoming legislative session in Austin, where our number one issue will be protecting franchise laws from direct sales by manufacturers. But, with all the Covid-19 restrictions it will be a different session. I do not think we are going to be sitting in too many offices until a vaccine is available for most of the population.
Therefore, we need to find different ways to communicate and continue to foster relationships with lawmakers, as those connections will be more important than ever before. We will have to stay nimble, communicate effectively and remain active in the legislative process.
We remained hopeful about the 2021 Auto Show for as long as we could, however the pandemic instills too much risk for all parties involved to put on the large event. We cancelled the January event and had hopes to move to May, however the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was also forced to postpone to May, therefore we will have to wait until 2022 for the next Auto Show.
Yes, that puts a big hurt on HADA, and there will be a little budget trimming here and there. Nevertheless, HADA has prepared for a rainy day. We have the reserves to get through this year and stay committed to our scholarship and community programs.
At the end of the day, we will remain steady and true to our mission. We will not detour from the great path that HADA has set on because we believe in what we do, the causes we support, and feel positive about the future of our industry.