For nearly 70 years from its founding, NADA had never published a book. But in 1984, the association's executive committee -- on a split vote -- gave the go-ahead to Betting on the Franchise: Car & Truck Retailing into the 1990's, written by Jake Kelderman and me.
A year earlier, we had pitched the idea for a book that would analyze the growing number of voices and consultancies declaring that the franchise system of vehicle distribution and service was doomed to fail.
Jake and I wanted to explore the rate and direction of changes we could document and focus on how the auto dealership and the many businesses within it might evolve as the year 2000 approached. Our premise was that a challenged dealership network could adapt in the way it met customer expectations and thus shape the industry.
With the help of thoughtful dealers, industry executives, analysts and scholars, we concluded that the durability of the franchise system had been remarkable during the first 75 years of the industry and that the past was prologue to the future.
We were betting on the franchise and the remarkable way in which dealers and their employee teams adapted to change. Franchised dealers acting in their own best interests will always respond to challenges more quickly and effectively than any centralized system.
We also noted that there were no perfect alternatives to the franchise system, and that manufacturers should not underestimate the political clout of dealers. Ultimately, the private- and human-capital investments of dealer-owners were more efficient than capital provided from manufacturers' funds in an already capital-intensive business.