This year, the National Automobile Dealers Association celebrates its 100th anniversary. That's a remarkable achievement considering the tumultuous history of the U.S. auto industry.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the success of the American automobile industry is its adoption of the franchise system.
Although it might appear to be under siege these days, the franchise system was the way automobile manufacturers chose to market their cars from the beginning. Car companies didn't have the capital to build dealer networks as well as invest in factories and staff for the engineering, design and manufacture of vehicles.
They needed dealers to market their vehicles while they spent their capital on developing and producing cars and trucks. It is a system that has worked well over the years.
NADA and its members have faced many crises over the past century. During the Great Depression, many auto brands went out of business, and many of their dealers, did, too.
But the biggest challenge to dealers came a few years later. Just as the country started to work its way out of the Depression, the U.S. entered World War II. Automakers stopped manufacturing cars as they switched to military equipment ranging from Jeeps to tanks to bombers. While the factories worked harder than ever, dealers had virtually nothing new to sell. It took a lot of creativity for dealers to stay in business during the war.
In the years to follow, NADA encountered new challenges in Washington. Safety, fuel economy and emissions became a huge part of NADA's responsibility in representing U.S. auto retailers, and dealers increasingly represented car companies from Europe and Asia in addition to domestic brands.
It seems only fitting that on the eve of the 100th anniversary of this association the U.S. auto industry set a record for most light vehicles sold in a year.
NADA's history is the history of the automobile industry. Automotive retailers have been an important part of business in America. And they have given a great deal of their time and money to philanthropy.
This issue tells the story of NADA's first century. It is a great story with lots of heroes over the years. We hope you enjoy our efforts.