SAN FRANCISCO – The franchised dealership system is strong, prosperous and getting along much better with auto makers these days, says H. Carter Myers III, the outgoing chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Assn.

"We all know that improving dealer-manufacturer relations is an ongoing challenge," he tells NADA members at the association’s annual convention here. "There were and will still be challenges that affect the franchise system and its dealers."

H. Carter Myers III

He says the first challenge of his chairmanship occurred in May when General Motors Corp. changed its parts policy with little dealer input. Had the new policy stuck, the NADA estimates it could have resulted in a $100 million cost transfer from GM to its dealers.

"After meeting with GM executives, they made some positive changes," says Carter. "In fact, they are still tweaking their parts programs to improve the dealer’s profit opportunity. These positive interactions and others since show us that GM remains committed to developing an even more solid relationship with its dealers."

Ford Motor Co.’s Blue Oval dealer certification was another hot button, especially when the auto maker suddenly proposed cutting incentive payments, says Carter, noting that many Ford dealers invested substantial sums to become certified, based on the belief the program would remain in place for five years (see related story: Blue Oval, Mercury Advantage Programs Change).

"But the fact that Ford asked for dealer comments before making a final decision was a huge step in the right direction," says Carter.

After hearing dealer concerns, Ford made its plan more palatable. "We thank Ford’s management for their willingness to value their dealers," Carter says.

Ford had offered Blue Oval certified dealers cash incentives, but is phasing that out as part of the auto maker’s cost-cutting efforts.

Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr., who made a variety of NADA convention-related appearances, tells dealers the Blue Oval cash-incentive program "will be around for a few more years, so have some fun with it."

He adds that Ford’s overall relationship with its dealers remains strong. "The feedback we get is terrific. We’ll work with our dealer council on anything."

Bill Ford says he’s often asked what a profitable Ford can do for its dealers.

"The question could be switched around to ‘What can profitable and successful dealers do for us?’" he says.