New NADA Chairman Robert J. Maguire urges GM to stop blaming dealers for corporate miscues, prods DaimlerChrysler to meet more often with NADA leaders and scolds Ford for its controversial Blue Oval program.

He says in his inaugural speech that factory/dealer relations are a major concern, which has seen significant improvement in the past year.

“The NADA leadership meets 3-4 times a year with top management at Ford and GM. DaimlerChrysler we're still working on.”

He adds, “We still have a way to go. This year, we are encouraging GM to treat its Oldsmobile dealers with respect and fairness — to stop blaming dealers and accept responsibility for the lack of appeal of the product. Everyone knows Olds was fuddy-duddy and not hip.

“Over at Ford, the Blue Oval program still rankles dealers. Ford wants to increase customer satisfaction! Good. We all do! Incentives are one thing and are fine, but monetary punishment is not fair, especially for subjective guidelines interpreted by a third party.”

That's a reference to Ford charging a higher wholesale price for vehicles if a dealer is not certified by a consulting firm using quality control standards.

Mr. Maguire defends state franchise laws. He notes that critics call them protectionism.

“I suppose that's true,” he says. “They protect the interests of consumers while preserving a level playing field for local businesses, and they provide the manufacturers with a distribution system.”

The new NADA chief says dealers must adapt to changing market conditions and new technologies.

“But most importantly, we'll have to remember how we built this great industry: customer by customer and car by car — 17.4 million times in 2000 and more than 650 million times in the last century.”