Consumers are nowhere near ready to give up their personal vehicles in favour of ride-sharing, NADA Chairman Wes Lutz, told the keynote session of the 2018 AADA National Dealer Convention and Expo.
Mr Lutz expressed his pride in the industry and in being a Dealer, and said he had felt the same sense of pride from the Dealers he had met in Australia.
“Being a member of your Dealer Association is like having a force field around you,” he said. “It’s around you at all times.”
“The last few years have been the busiest for Dealers in Washington, DC and for the first time in a generation, the President pushed the US Congress to rewrite the Tax Code. When it came to tax reform everything was on the line for Dealers.”
Mr Lutz said NADA was the only trade association to meet with the Trump transition team before the election, was the first trade association, and had had the ear of the President ever since.
“We talk to the White House on a constant basis. They ask for our view on issues on a regular basis. Every day we have some kind of input with this government, and that didn’t happen with previous administrations,” he said.
Mr Lutz stressed the importance of advocacy.
“We’re well-connected through our Congress. We’re able to advocate for Dealers when the OEMs pushed back – and we got some push-back from them. NADA stepped up when it comes to autonomous vehicles and we entered that debate early,” he said.
“You all heard the argument that, in one way or another, ride-sharing services will overshadow personal ownership of vehicles. Silicon Valley went as far as to say no-one would buy a car from Dealers in 25 years – yet last year, globally, sales of passenger cars or trucks surpassed 90 million for the first time – an all-time record.”
NADA hired a pollster to conduct a survey in March of 1,200 consumers – including an oversampling of Millennials –on the impact of autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. The pollster predicted overwhelming willingness to abandon personal vehicles in favour of ride-sharing – and could not have been more wrong.
“The first big takeaway from the research is that folks have very little interest in giving up their keys in favour of moving exclusively to ride-share,” Mr Lutz said.
“Why? Because the automobile has been the most exciting platform for innovation for the last 100 years, and it will be for the next 100. The reality is, people favour convenience above everything else, and ride-hailing doesn’t provide nearly the amount of freedom or convenience that personal ownership does.
“Ride-hailing wait times are the biggest consumer complaint, and consumers further report that their cars give them independence and freedom. NADA’s research shows that personal car ownership is still paramount to Americans, including the younger generation, and ride-hailing is just a complementary means of travel to car ownership, not a replacement.
“At the end of that two-hour session (the pollster) couldn’t find anybody in the audience they were polling who was willing to give up their car. And he turned to us and he said, ‘OK, maybe I got that wrong’.”
Mr Lutz said the noise out of Silicon Valley or the West Coast of the USA could convince the industry that a move way from personal vehicle ownership was inevitable, but that did not take into account the desires of the consumer.
“The key takeaway for all of us is that the value proposition of a new car or truck is not just transportation from Point A to Point B, as many would have you believe. Never under-estimate the power of freedom, even when it comes to owning a car. Freedom to go wherever we want, whenever we want, at a moment’s notice – no waits, no hassles, no worries. Just stopping at the grocery store on the way to the gym, not having to depend on anybody else – mobility is paramount,” he said.
“That’s something that ride-hail services can’t offer, and it’s why people will continue owning cars and why we as Dealers will continue to sell those cars and service those cars.”
Mr Lutz returned to the importance of advocacy in representing the needs of both Dealers and drivers.
“The bottom line is this: the Dealer Association is here to do three important things for you, and these are paramount for us at NADA. These are advocate on your behalf with the federal government, we advocate on your behalf with the OEMs, and we help make dealerships more profitable.
“Like NADA, AADA spearheads efforts that would be impossible for Dealers to do on their own.”