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AADA ‘buoyed’ by convention response

Double up: Delegate numbers at this year’s AADA convention will be double that of last year as dealers increase their engagement in industry issues.

Dealer body expects more than 1000 delegates at annual conference next week

7 Aug 2015

NEW-CAR dealers have voted overwhelmingly in support of the newly reconstituted Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), with delegate numbers doubling for next week’s annual convention in Melbourne.

A total of 967 dealers and dealer personnel have so far signed on for the three-day conference and more are expected. Attendance was 480 last year.

“I think we will have over 1000 subscriptions by Monday morning,” said convention organiser Patrick Tessier, who until recently was the interim chief executive of the AADA while it was being reorganised.

“I am really buoyed up by this because what I see today is that 42 per cent of this year’s attendees have never been before.”

Mr Tessier said the strong turnout for the convention was a reflection of the depth of work done to reconstitute the AADA.

Formerly known as the Australian Automobile Dealers Association, the AADA was run by the state motor trades associations like the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce.

Two years ago, Queensland Ford and Suzuki dealer Ian Field decided to break away from the state bodies and make the renamed Australian Automotive Dealer Association a stronger, independent organisation.

Mr Tessier, who had been the organiser of the annual AADA Convention for more than 15 years, was drafted in as chief executive to help get the new AADA up and running. He has now handed over to former Ford Australia executive Bruce McDonald.

80 center imageLeft: AADA conference organiser Patrick Tessier

“This is my 19th convention and I have never seen this level of engagement from the dealer community,” Mr Tessier said.

“So I think the message has been heard that there is a need for them to rally behind an organisation that is going to give them support and advocate for them.

“When I look at the convention attendance, I see that as the dealers taking ownership of their own dealer association.”

Mr Tessier said dealers had to be active in the association. It cannot be driven from the top.

“But we have only done the first part. Now the dealers have to do the rest.

“If they really want a dealer association that has the power of a NADA (the National Automobile Dealers Association of the the US), then they have to own it, and they have to want it.”

Mr Tessier said the record level of attendance at the convention was an endorsement of the policies of the initial board of directors and, in particular, the closer relationship being built with the car-makers.

“The relationship between the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and the dealer community in terms of AADA and FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which represents the car-makers) has not been stronger in my 19 years.

“There has been an amazing turnaround in their attitudes to each other. Up until two years ago I don’t remember an instance where we have actually sat down with FCAI and had a talk.

“In the last two years we have worked together on lots of things. Not just the used-car import debate or the right to repair issue or the cyber car issue, we have talked about lots of things and how we can co-operate together.

“In the next couple of years I think you will see that level of co-operation expand.”

But Mr Tessier said the AADA would remain independent and, in areas where an OEM’s conduct was not in the spirit of the agreement, the AADA would be prepared to stand up for its dealer member.

“I think the dealer community must have a dealer body that will act and advocate for them when necessary,” he said. “We advocate for the dealers, and what we advocate now is a strong relationship with the OEMs.

“The reality is we do believe we are their partners and they are ours.

“We all need to understand that dealers and the OEMs will be much stronger together than apart.

“We need to understand that we need each other. We need to understand also that we are much stronger together than we will ever be apart.”

Mr Tessier said that the occasional disputes between carmakers and individual dealers over franchise arrangements should not define the whole relationship.

“That is not to say that when something crops us that the AADA thinks it needs to discuss with the OEMs or FCAI they will have the courage to do that, and that’s good, because they should be brave enough to have tough discussions.

“On Monday night we will have nine CEOs of OEMs in the room at one time. That has never happened in my time.”

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