“He did more for the franchised dealers than anyone else in the system's 100 year history.”
Robert Maguire NADA chairman

Bruce Kelleher, a 35-year National Automobile Dealers Association staff veteran, is stepping in as interim president of the organization after the death of its long-time chief executive, Frank E. McCarthy.

When naming Mr. Kelleher to the post, the NADA Executive Committee decided not to accelerate the search for a permanent president. Mr. McCarthy had announced that he would retire at the end of 2001 and a search committee to find his successor already was in place.

The association expects to announce a new president at its June board of directors meeting. Several prospects have expressed an interest in the job, says an NADA spokesman. NADA is looking to fill the top post with a lawyer — as Mr. McCarthy was — and someone who has or has had experience running a trade association.

Mr. McCarthy, 66, died of kidney cancer in late February. He was a steadfast advocate of dealer interests before the government and automobile manufacturers for more than three decades

“The automobile industry has lost a true leader,” says NADA Chairman Robert J. Maguire.

When presenting a special tribute to Mr. McCarthy at the NADA Convention in Las Vegas earlier in the month, past NADA Chairman Harold B. Wells called him “the man who has done more for America's franchised dealers than anyone in history.”

As the ranking staff member in charge of NADA's day-to-day operations, Mr. McCarthy worked tirelessly on behalf of new-car dealers. He built NADA into one of the country's largest and most respected trade associations.

Industry leaders have praised Mr. McCarthy's ability to bridge the gap between dealer and manufacturer, and his knack for working behind the scenes while allowing others to have the limelight. Mr. Maguire says, “Frank McCarthy did more for the franchised dealers than anyone else in the system's 100 year history.

“He did that while staying out of the limelight. He gave us the credit for his NADA victories.”

“There's no industry that is more fun to work in…,” Mr. McCarthy once said. “And when you're in automobiles, you're in the major leagues.”

Mr. McCarthy made a distinction between himself and many other successful CEOs.

“Many successful CEOs have not had successful marriages or success with their children because of the time commitment for the job,” said Mr. McCarthy, who is survived by a wife, five children and 12 grandchildren. “One reason I came to work for NADA was that dealers understand the importance of family. I don't work on Sunday. I am home every evening.”

Mr. McCarthy joined NADA as executive vice president in 1968 at age 33. To learn the ins and outs of running a large, multifaceted organization, he relied on the dealers who had hired him for management advice and support.

In the late ’60s, the association was headquartered in Washington, D.C. and had 175 employees. By 2001, he directed a staff of more than 400 located in McLean, VA, and on Capitol Hill.

Born in Indianapolis, IN, Mr. McCarthy graduated from the University of Notre Dame and earned a law degree from the Georgetown University School of Law.

Memorial donations may be made to the NADA Charitable Foundation, 8400 Westpark Dr., McLean, VA, 22102, or to the St. Elizabeth Parish School Building Fund, 917 Montrose Rd., Rockville, MD, 20852.