When Harold Wells became NADA chairman in 2000, he'd already been in the thick of the fight against company stores. And new issues loomed for the General Motors and Chrysler dealer from Whiteville, N.C.: dealer consolidation and Internet sales.
"I still think we're searching for just how the Internet is going to fit into the retail process," he told Automotive News that year. "We as dealers, as entrepreneurs, feel real strongly about the franchise system, and NADA's real focal point has got to be the voice of the dealer and to protect the franchise system."
After a stint in the U.S. Army, Wells graduated from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in 1953.
Wells became an articulate spokesman for dealers. But it wasn't always that way. Bruce Kelleher, retired NADA executive vice president, remembers Wells as a respected leader but a halting public speaker, who struggled to get through his speech when named NADA vice chairman in 1999.
But Wells gained fluency and confidence through frequent public speaking in that post.
A year later, when he took the top job, Wells delivered his address like "a natural," Kelleher says.