Twelve months ago, few people in the political circles of Australia knew anything about the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA).
The irony is, of course, that the destiny of the automotive industry was – and still is – in the hands of these very same people. It is fair to say some had a smattering of knowledge about our industry, but had no idea of the size or the impact we have on the national economy.
They were unaware we contribute just over two per cent to the national economy, that we employ around 70,000 people with an annual wage bill in excess of $4 billion and that we have more than $17 billion invested in plant and facilities.
AADA CEO, David Blackhall, said the soles of his shoes are almost threadbare from walking the corridors and offices of government ministers, backbenchers, members of the opposition, regulators and bureaucrats – but now they know what the AADA is and who we represent.
“We were part of what ministers referred to as ‘the alphabet soup of organisations’ that regularly knocked on their doors.
“We were just another motoring association. They knew nothing about the AADA and were confused as to which organisation should be perceived as the peak industry body.
“They now know we represent only new car franchise Dealers – not the car manufacturers, repairers or the insurance and finance companies – and that we are well organised.
“It has been a huge education process, but we are starting to make headway,” Mr Blackhall said.
“Over the past year I have had more than 80 one-on-one meetings with various Federal and State government ministers, shadow ministers and regulators, who now know what we are all about,” he said.
Mr Blackhall said that, fortunately, the workload is now being shared by James Voortman, the recently appointed Executive Director Policy and Communications, who is well respected and connected on all sides of the political spectrum.
He said that having James based in Canberra means he can meet with a Minister or Regulator at a moment’s notice.