Gary Chilchrist, incoming chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and president of Gilchrist Chevrolet Buick GMC, shared details of the organization’s agenda for 2024 in an interview with Automotive News, days ahead of the 2024 NADA Show in Las Vegas.
According to Gilchrist, the association’s chief directive this year, apart from supporting car dealers, is to block several government policies that critics say will harm car consumers and businesses in the retail automotive sector. One of these is a regulation passed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called the Combating Auto Retail Scams (CARS) rule, which requires dealers to follow strict guidelines during the sales process to ensure buyers are complicit with all fees, charges, and terms. Although this “no-junk-fees” policy was scheduled to enter into effect in July, the NADA called for a court review in early January, leading the FTC to suspend the official date until the examination is finished.
Gilchrist noted that the CARS act was passed by the commission late in the holiday season, giving himself and the NADA little time to arrange an official response. “I think we’re going to look at all avenues in trying to get ready for it,” he explained. “[The CARS Act], quite frankly, is going to cost a massive amount of time, complexity, paperwork, and cost to the car buyers — our customers. The FTC vehicle shopper [rule] is really summed up in one way: It’s terrible for the consumer.”
Gilchrist’s comments echo those of other members of his organization. In a post on the association’s website published in December, NADA president and CEO Mike Stanton delivered a short response to the FTC’s decision to move forward with the policy, calling the CARS act “heavy-handed bureaucratic overreach and redundancy at its worst.” Stanton added that it would “needlessly lengthen the car sales process by forcing new layers of disclosures and complexity into the transaction.”
Another key objective for the NADA this year is opposing the Biden Administration’s climate change policies, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed emissions guidelines. These regulations would impose the strictest carbon emissions limitations on vehicles in U.S. history, forcing automakers to supplement gas-powered car sales with sales of electric or hybrid vehicles over the next 16 years. Opponents of the EPA’s plan argue that customers are not interested in transitioning to electric vehicles, pointing to the segment’s comparatively poor performance over the last few years. This could make the government’s carbon reduction targets impossible to meet and place an undue burden on the automotive sector. Failure to meet the EPA’s guidelines would result in hefty fines for the offending manufacturer.
“EV adoption is important to us,” Gilchrist clarified. “While we share the goal of lowering greenhouse gases, because it is important for our next generations coming forward, the proposal — as you’ve heard from NADA — goes way too far, way too fast. The EPA mandates will significantly reduce consumer choices [while] making vehicles less affordable.” The incoming NADA chair also expressed hope that hybrids could be the solution to balancing emission reduction goals with market demand.
Sales of hybrids rose 76% in 2023, following several years of declines. Industry insiders increasingly consider hybrids a more affordable and accessible alternative to fully-electrified models, leading automakers, such as General Motors, to view the segment with renewed interest.
Gilchrist’s comments come on the eve of the 2024 NADA Show, the world’s largest retail automotive convention. He is set to replace outgoing chairman Geoffrey Pohanka after serving as vice chairman for the organization in 2023.