The need for a national association to represent automobile dealers was apparent scarcely 20 years after Henry Ford's first prototype vehicle bounced along the dirt roads of America. Thirty auto dealers converged on Washington, D.C. in l9l7 to urge Congress to lower the luxury tax currently imposed on automobiles since, they maintained, cars were no longer a luxury but a vital part of the American economy. Their twenty-twenty vision is noted today as we celebrate the l00th anniversary of the automobile. Over 600 million vehicles have been produced in America since 1896 with 189 million in service today grinding out two trillion miles on our highways each year.
In the late 1960's the automobile dealers of Birmingham saw the need for an organization that would serve as a liaison between themselves and the car-buying public in this area. Their goal was to create an organization that would not only transform the stereotypical image of the horse trading auto dealer but would also create a body that would be a concerned, active corporate citizen working to benefit the entire community. In 1967 that idea became the Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association.
Our mission is to increase professionalism among our area's auto dealers. We strive to improve the sales training and customer service skills of our members. This increases awareness among sales professionals for creating a more knowledgeable shopper. We help build strong relationships between the dealer and the customer. And the satisfied customer is everybody's goal.
Building consumer confidence in automobile dealers is more important now than it has ever been. There is more variety available today than ever before. Over 30 manufacturers are selling almost 500 models of cars and light trucks. Vehicles are being built better, they are lasting longer and are coming to us with more safety features. In 1989, for the first time since the end of World War II, sales of used cars overtook those of new models. Women are influencing almost 80 percent of car buying decisions. To a great extent, market share is now being determined more by customer service since the cars are the same and it's the dealer who makes the difference. The BADA has been instrumental in assisting auto dealers in educating the consumer in making an informed decision from among the hundreds of options available to them.
Since its inception 30 years ago, the BADA has grown to an organization of 45 member dealers from Jefferson and Shelby Counties. They represent an industry that employs 5,000 people in the local area. We are part of the National Automobile Dealers Association; Nationwide the industry employs millions of people and has topped the $30 billion mark.
Funded through association dues and revenue produced by its annual auto show, the BADA is governed by a President and Board of Directors elected by its members. Names of the organization's officers are a Who's Who of the local automobile dealer community - Belcher, Limbaugh, Brannon, Corlew, Edwards, Gargus, Israel, Roper, Skinner, and Visser.
Membership in the BADA brings a number of benefits. The organization conducts a series of sales training classes designed to improve the professional skills of member dealers' sales representatives. They stress the ethics of automobile sales and the importance of building a lasting relationship between dealer and customer to ensure repeat business.
In addition, members receive a great deal of media attention and public recognition for the community service projects in which they are involved. Probably the most important of these is the annual Auto Classic Golf Tournament sponsored by the BADA. Since its first tournament in 1992, the annual event has donated over $500,000 to various children’s charities in central Alabama, such as Kid One Transport, Girls Inc., Children’s Hospital, Camp Smile-A-Mile, Children’s Harbor, Impact Family Counseling, Lakeshore Foundation, SafeHouse, Camp WheezeAway, Kings Ranch, American Lung Association of Alabama, Birmingham Museum of Art, Goodwill, Big Oak Ranch, McWane Science Center, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and The Juvenile Arthritis Foundation.
Local dealers are also active in assisting other organizations including the Big Oak Ranch, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and Little League baseball. They also provide vehicles for special charity events. BADA members averaged spending approximately $87,200 per dealer in charitable contributions and donations. Our dealers are true corporate citizens. They appreciate what the community has given them and they want to return something to the community.
The event for which the BADA is most well known is the annual Alabama lnternational Auto Show. Begining in 1993, past president Dave Belcher resurrected the auto show raising it to the caliber of event it is today. Held each year at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, the show has become the largest and most exciting automotive spectacle in the South. Hundreds of vehicles representing over 30 domestic and imported car and truck lines are on display across 230,000 square feet of exhibition space at the BJCC. Manufacturers representatives and members of the BADA are on hand to assist in product education, feature comparisons, safety standards, and other points of interest to consumers.