Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

SAN FRANCISCO – Growing up on a tobacco farm, Jim Hudson loved to buy old cars, fix them and resell them at a profit.

“The only time I skipped school was to look at a used car on a lot,” recalls the new chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Assn. and head of Jim Hudson Automotive Group in Columbia, SC.

Hudson owns mostly foreign-brand stores, but as a young man his ambition was to be an Oldsmobile dealer. He fulfilled that goal but, like so many other Olds dealers, he was distressed when General Motors Corp. killed off the brand.

“I know Olds dealers who still aren’t over that,” Hudson tells Ward’s. “It was like their mothers had died.”

But Hudson is elated at an AIADA meeting where the chairman’s gavel is passed to him from John Hawkins, a California dealer praised for diplomatically ending a rash of in-fighting that racked the organization two years ago.

Hudson says life on the farm taught him lessons that he applies in running his Toyota, Hyundai, Saab, Pontiac and GMC dealerships, as well as two Lexus stores, in three South Carolina cities.

“I learned firsthand that there are no second chances in farming,” he says at the AIADA gathering held in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here.

“You have to take advantage of every opportunity, every square foot of land and every drop of rain if you are going to make it,” he says. “I apply the same principals I learned in the tobacco fields to my dealerships today.”

Hudson is much admired within the auto industry. He is known as a dealer who coaches sales people to become managers, helps managers get their own dealerships and offers advice to young dealers.

As AIADA chairman over the next year, he’ll carry the association’s traditional banner of lobbying against legislative protectionism and tariffs against import vehicles.

“There will always be opponents to free trade,” Hudson says. “There will always be politicians who see us as convenient scapegoats to their problems.”

He sees AIADA as “the international dealer’s only defense against legislation that will destroy our business.”

Vowing to be the same sort of association chairman as he is car dealer, Hudson says, “I will get the job done.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com