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Dealers must build awareness: AADA

Bigger push: New AADA chief Bruce McDonald says the association, and dealers should push their contribution to the industry more than they have been.

New head of peak dealer body urges car retailers to highlight key role in economy

10 Aug 2015

NEW-CAR dealers and the recently reinvigorated Australian Automotive Dealer Association must raise the awareness of their contribution to the economy at both local and national levels, according to recently appointed AADA chief executive Bruce McDonald.

In his opening address at the AADA National Dealer Convention in Melbourne today, Mr McDonald – a former Ford executive who took the helm of the peak dealer body on July 1 – said the entire automotive industry was undergoing fundamental change due to the imminent closure of the three local car-makers, which would in turn place a greater responsibility on dealers in their efforts to represent the sector.

Over a three-decade-long career at the Blue Oval, Mr McDonald spent more than 20 years in sales and marketing and customer service response but confessed in his address that he had never attended a AADA convention over that period.

For reasons he could not remember, Ford’s attitude was that is was not necessary to attend the annual event.

“It took until after I was retired two years ago for me to attend the AADA convention at my own expense, and I realised how exciting and how innovative the industry was and continues to be,” he said.

“I am delighted to be reconnected with you as an industry peak body. We are a member-based organisation and for us to be effective as an organisation, we need to provide benefits to our dealers in a way that adds value to their membership.”

He said one element of that was to improve communication, both with the dealer body and to the outside world.

80 center imageLeft: AADA chief executive Bruce McDonald

“A central part of how we build that value and benefit to our members is how we communicate with them and I believe there is an opportunity to improve that communication strategy and implementation,” he said.

“Most importantly, I think the opportunity is for us, as the AADA and with the support of its members, to create an increased awareness of the contribution that the new-car franchise network makes to the Australian economy in terms of revenue, in terms of employment, in terms of taxation and other fees we pay to the governments of Australia.

“We represent a fundamentally important aspect of the Australian economy.”

Mr McDonald said dealers undertake more risks than many business operators.

“Dealers, perhaps like no other sector in the economy, understand what the word entrepreneurship really means. They undergo substantial risk,” he said.

“They place substantial financial resources in peril in some cases, but they also understand the benefits of success and of making things happen.

“We have all heard the phrase nothing happens until you sell something, and that’s true.

“But I think we can refine it to say nothing happens until someone sells a car and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the ultimate measure of success is for the Australian new-car dealer network.”“So I am delighted to be involved once again with, not just with the Ford dealer organisation, but the entire Australian new-car dealer network.”“I want to be part of an organisation that takes the awareness of car dealers, of any franchise, and the contribution they make to Australian society to an unprecedented level.”

But he warned it would take time.

“We have a long journey to continue reinforcing and communicating the huge contribution that the Australian new-car dealer sector makes, but we are going to get there.”

He also made it clear that the AADA was not about to seek conflict with the car-makers.

“When I was interviewed for this role, Ian (Field, chairman of the AADA) made it clear to me that the AADA was not about bashing up factories or being in dispute with the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers),” he said.

“I am a partnership builder. That’s the way I have always conducted my career and, whilst during my long career at Ford there were times when the Ford Motor Company and our dealers had disagreements, well, show me a relationship that doesn’t have disagreements.

“My view is as a partnership we did great things and I want to continue to build relationships with factories in a way that is going to add some value to the dealers and recognise that their franchise is a huge asset to their top line and their bottom line.”

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