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NADA Chairman Mike Alford on EVs, OEM direct sales, and supply issues

It has been an incredible time in retail automotive for car dealers. Sales have been strong, considering the inventory crisis, and profits continue to soar. Today on Inside Automotive, we’re joined by Mike Alford, Chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and dealer principal at Marine Chevrolet, Trent Buick GMC, and Trent Cadillac. In this segment, Alford shares his thoughts on the state of the car business.

Alford reports he spent the early years of his career in the banking arena before transitioning to the auto industry, and he now refers to his three decades of automotive experience as “fast and furious.”  

Alford indicates that low inventory and high demand are definitely a reality for him as a dealer and that all dealers are working to deliver legitimate timelines and inventory projections to their customers. Overall, he reports it is a “unique time” for the industry.  

Alford remarks that despite a small drop in demand for July, he and other dealers and analysts are expecting demand to actually continue rising for the foreseeable future. He notes this is at least in part due to rising inflation and interest rates, which may make the all-time high prices out of reach for many consumers in the coming months so they are rushing to lock in prices now.  

Online car buying grew exponentially during the pandemic, which Alford says his dealership is comfortable with as long as the process provides a consumer-centric model. He indicates that dealerships should work with their local councils to monitor OEMs that are considering or beginning direct-to-consumer sales and adds that consumers who choose the newer process should be directed to a franchise dealer who can facilitate the transactions.   

Ultimately, Alford says the direct-to-consumer model and franchises have the potential to “work beautifully together.”  

Related: NADA Update: President Mike Stanton on industry challenges, diversity efforts, and the 2023 NADA Show

On the topic of electric vehicles (EVs), Alford reports his dealership is receiving an uptick in requests about the vehicles but that “charging capacity” and “range anxiety” are two main concerns the customers have. He notes, however, that OEMs are releasing promising EVs and he is excited about the transition.   

A current top concern of NADA members is supply chain constraints, according to Alford, along with regulatory matters and employee recruitment and retention.  

Alford says a major priority of NADA under his leadership will be navigating the transition to EVs and getting customers to make the switch. He also notes over-the-air updates, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the need to make sure OEMs recognize the importance of franchised dealers, and a jumpstart technician program that is being tested out in Louisiana.  

The 2023 NADA Show will be in Dallas, Texas in January 2023, and Alford indicates the gathering will be even better than this year’s, which he reports held a lot of surprises and was a great success. Register here!

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