One voice for all

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Celebrating 75 years of excellence with the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association

Over the past summer all Canadians have been celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Festivals and celebrations of all shapes and sizes took place on and around July 1, 2017 in communities large and small celebrating this remarkable milestone.

2017 also marks the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association. Formed in 1941 during the First World War, its first board meeting was held on December 5, 1941 at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa.

The Federation, today known as CADA, has been the national voice of automobile dealers from coast to coast for three-quarters of a century. Along with its provincial counterparts, the federation has proven that its staying power as the voice for Canadian automobile dealers is second to none.

Automobile dealers are actually individual members of their respective provincial associations. It’s the provincial associations that are members of the federation. So it is a form of partnership that combines to act as the voice of automobile dealers in Canada and all of its provinces and territories.

In this high-tech world—where globally, physical economic borders seem to matter less and less—your Canadian federation needs to be a stronger voice than ever before.

Many associations in general are organizations looking for a cause to represent. With the evolution of technology, the Internet and consumer enabled communication across multi-channels many associations are finding it a challenge to maintain their network of support.

Automotive dealers collectively are not a cause but rather:

  • significant contributors to the automotive industry in Canada, the overall retail sector of the Canadian economy;
  • significant employers, year over year providing over 150,000 families with financial and economic stability;
  • critical supporters of many communities, governments, charities and arts right across Canada.

Automobile dealers are part of the economic fabric of Canada and as a consequence deserve one common voice.

With approximately 3,300 dealership locations across Canada, not everyone is going to agree on everything at the same time. This makes working for the benefit of the entire group of automobile dealers a Herculean and sometime thankless task.

Automobile dealers are part of the economic fabric of Canada and as a consequence deserve one common voice

It’s very easy for the association to get wrapped up in many “keep busy” projects and lose site of their main objective. Strong associations hold their head into the wind and survive. Our Canadian federation is a true success story.

Your provincial associations provide very valuable services to their members. Member education, training, provincial regulator and government relations support, conferences, legislative input, products and services, advocacy, thought leadership and other initiatives are all within your association’s wheelhouse of services that help keep the business environment within which you operate fair and rewarding.

Each provincial association’s relationship with provincial governments is vitally important.

CADA provides valuable support to federation members in the form of industry relations, insurance products and services, federal advocacy, OEM advocacy, thought leadership, international insight and relations and many, many other initiatives.

Dealers also have a significant role to play. Only by being involved and participating do your provincial associations and CADA learn of immediate issues requiring their attention and of value to you.

Perhaps it’s an income tax audit; a cancelled bank financing arrangement; an aggressive worker’s compensation audit; OEM warranty audit; aggressive provincial regular audits and investigations; OEM facilities programs; OEM approaches to succession planning; enhancements to the National Automobile Dealer Arbitration Program; support for automotive specific education through institutions like to Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgia College; and dealer financial support during retirement.

The list goes on and on. Your role as a dealer is to be an active member and participate. Only through active participation will you, your dealership or dealer group be able to benefit from the wide range of offerings and support.

Your associations develop relationships with many industry suppliers, the use of which can be critical to a dealer’s success.

In addition to providing valuable services to automobile dealers, these same suppliers, under the guidance of your provincial association, also sponsor your industry events, bursaries, grants and develop enhanced products and service offerings only available to association members.

I firmly believe, the role of the association is to keep its members on the forefront of where retail automotive is headed. I believe the mandate is to provide its members with leading edge exposure to many differing ideas in order to inform their members of the full array of workable solutions available to them.

Associations should get involved with new precedent setting situations that could have either a positive or negative effect upon a large number of dealers, not just one

Not all members are the same and most certainly each and every member has different strengths tied to their individual mission, vision and values. By exposing the members at large to various solutions and opinions, the associations are providing an extremely valuable service to their members.

It’s the members’ responsibility to take advantage of these offerings and to support the programs and initiatives, both by attending in person as well as financially, to ensure their relevance and long-term impact.

Quite often the role of the association is misunderstood. Many dealers believe the association should get involved in dealer to dealer disputes and in situations where precedents have been long established.

In my opinion, this is not the role of your association. You need to fight your own battles in certain circumstances.

Associations should get involved with new precedent setting situations that could have either a positive or negative effect upon a large number of dealers, not just one.

With matters affecting only one province, then the relevant provincial association should lead the charge.

In situations that impact multiple provinces, these provincial associations representing those provinces should work together to provide one voice.

Where the impact requires federal intervention, then CADA and its provincial members collectively should tackle the issue. That is how a federation works and I have seen first hand how this has been working in Canada.

CADA has an ace in their pocket because of their very impactful organization based in Ottawa. Very few associations have such a positive track record having demonstrated firepower, clout and accessibility to federal decision makers in order to get results.

Working Parliament Hill is never easy and requires determination. Being respected is critically important and in my experience the CADA team has built tremendous credibility and respect.

Associations have their challenges as their members and industries evolve. We are in the midst of consumer-led industry momentum driving an evolution in all our businesses.

Outsiders to our industry have a very loud voice with our customers, whether reliable or not. Now, more than ever, it is critically important that all our collective voices are heard.

Your voice is important and your opinions and observations are important. Also more than ever, the industry needs a common voice. If we all do our part, we will be well on our way to celebrating the federation’s 100 years is 2041.

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Canadian auto dealer