AuSM’s Q&A with 2018 NADA chairman Wes Lutz — president of Extreme Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, RAM in Jackson, Mich. — also covered his thoughts on the current climate and happenings in Washington, D.C., as well as Detroit.
His responses to questions on the political/legislative environment and automakers, respectively, are below.
AuSM: Is the political/legislative climate for franchised dealers better or worse than it was a year ago? Why?
Wes Lutz: I think it’s better than it was under the previous administration, and that’s because, perhaps more than anything else, there is again a genuine desire among policymakers to seek input from a range of stakeholders, including the private sector, about the impact proposed actions will have on all parties before those actions are implemented. That’s the biggest difference in approach we’ve seen over the past year, and it’s been refreshing.
But it’s also not new. Federal agencies have always been required by law to solicit input before pushing through new rules and regulations. That’s how our system of government is supposed to work. We just saw that system break down under the previous administration.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was perhaps the best, although not the only, example of this. Another example was the Obama Administration trying to lock in fuel economy rules for model years 2022-2025 before all the new data was analyzed. We’re now back to a data-driven review, which is what everyone agreed to years ago.
Overall, I’d say the Trump Administration has brought us back to normal, which we view as a positive, because we believe a truly informed, data-driven process for developing public policy has the best chance of producing the most effective and fairest set of rules for everybody.
AR: As a longtime Chrysler dealer in Michigan, I imagine you have a unique vantage point into the world of the automakers, particularly the Big 3. What are automakers doing now strategically that impresses you, and what in your opinion, needs some fine-tuning?
WL: One of the big things they’ve done over the last 10 years is develop an incredible range of SUVs. That’s what the consumer wants, and they’ve done a great job of developing all kinds of SUVs to meet all kinds of needs, desires and budgets.
And they’ve done it while at the same time continuing to increase gas mileage of every vehicle. Those are things that I think they’ve done very well, especially the Big 3.
I also like the enhanced safety features that every manufacturer continues to roll out. Everybody likes to be helped when they’re driving. Blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems have been very well-received. Parking assistance is another feature that people very quickly embrace.
My customers rave about adaptive cruise control. These are the types of autonomous enhancements that customers love. Across the board, I think automakers are building probably the best product that the industry has ever built right now.