Dear CATA Dealer,
I can easily say without boasting that my term as CATA chairman was one unlike any other. Under the constant challenge posed by the pandemic, my one-year term stretched to two as we climbed every obstacle that came our way. Much like you did with each of your dealerships, the CATA came through slightly bruised but proud of the way we met the challenge and emerged a better organization. With many wins to be counted, it’s with a great sense of accomplishment I say “thank you” for the opportunity.
I can’t go any further without pausing to remember one of our fellow CATA directors, Scott Muller, who passed away unexpectedly during the past year. His enthusiasm for the job of CATA director was something to be admired and has been missed over the past months and will continue to be.
As the pandemic dawned, one of our primary CATA benefits, expert legal counsel from Dave Radelet’s team at Littler, became a vital tool for CATA members to get through the many issues brought on by dealing with the virus in the workplace. The CATA Board authorized a large share of our annual resources to provide this benefit at no cost to our members.
The pandemic initially reduced the legislative session to a bare minimum, but consistent and continuous efforts by the CATA ultimately brought about the passage of two critical pieces of legislation, both of which were signed into law by Governor Pritzker. The first measure was Senate Bill 58, which eliminated the $10,000 cap on sales tax credit for trade-ins.
The second was House Bill 3940, which provided substantial benefit with regard to warranty rate, time, and parts. Special thanks to committee chairman Dan Marquardt and the CATA staff for taking this bill from square one to the finish line with some innovative messaging and expert lobbying to get the bill passed into law. We have all greatly benefited from these legislative successes.
Covid challenged the ability of the CATA to hold an auto show, but the CATA responded by holding not one but two shows once the virus began to subside. The CATA first reached agreement with state officials and the City of Chicago to hold the first post Covid trade show in the city during July 2021. We designed a show smaller in size and shorter in duration, but it created a huge buzz and showed the OEMs the great ingenuity of the CATA team. The show’s indoor/outdoor hybrid design was well-received by manufacturers, dealers, and especially consumers. The nightly Chicago Auto Show Street Fest proved a huge success celebrating the show’s first-time appearance in the summer.
Seven months later, the CATA held its customary February show back in the South Building of McCormick Place, with a successful First Look for Charity gala preceding the show’s opening. The show featured six indoor test tracks – the most ever -- and electric vehicles received significant attention. Once again, our media partners came through in a big way with television specials, tremendous broadcast news coverage, and by extending our media buy. That, along with our leading social media efforts, kept Chicago Auto Show awareness at the highest levels. Our show continues to be heralded as the nation’s most significant consumer show by the manufacturers, the dealers, the press, and most importantly, the public.
The CATA Civic and Dealer Relations Committee continued with the fifteenth year of the Chicagoland Dealers Care program, with continued CATA contributions to dealer-sponsored charities in the community. We staged the ninth annual BBQ for the Troops on July 16, 2022 (interrupted once by Covid) and proudly surpassed $1 million to the USO throughout our 10-year campaign. To say we couldn’t have done it without the continuing support of our dealers is a huge understatement.
CATA’s Drive Chicago Committee continues to refine and update the website to maintain DriveChicago.com as the definitive online source for vehicle purchases in Chicago. In conjunction, the CATA Media Strategy Committee continues to wisely spend CATA resources to promote our dealers, DriveChicago.com and the Chicago Auto Show.
The CATA Member Benefits Committee continues to seek out potential partners to provide worthwhile programs and services for CATA dealers. During the pandemic, many of our approved partners offered discounted services to our membership. The CATA Board of Directors spent great time in choosing our newest partner, Vitu, who we foresee providing unparalleled electronic registration and titling services for our dealers.
The CATA Employee Benefits Committee dealt with a contentious labor negotiation with Local 701, made more difficult by numerous dealers who defected from the NCDC at a crucial period. The CATA made the difficult decision to suspend the defectors from membership, and the CATA is suing those defectors for damages as were set out in the NCDC Agreement which they all signed. Additionally, the CATA expelled the law firm that represented those dealers from membership.
In an effort to provide for more focused meetings and to reduce cost, the CATA Board amended its bylaws to reduce the size of the Board to twelve. Accordingly, the CATA Nominating Committee is charged with providing exceptional candidates for the four annual vacancies on the CATA Board of Directors.
Finally, we are thrilled that Jennifer Morand has accepted the Board’s invitation to become Co-President of the CATA with Dave Sloan for the next two years, and then becoming President upon Dave’s retirement. Jen brings great vitality to the CATA and a skill set that will benefit us greatly. We will be sad to lose Dave Sloan, but Dave will work closely with Jen during the upcoming period to ensure her success.
I truly appreciate the hard work of Dave and Jen and the entire CATA staff, who, along with Dennis O’Keefe and Dave Radelet who head our respective legal teams, got the organization through some genuinely tough times. My thanks also to the CATA Board of Directors for its wise counsel and support through the past two years.
I congratulate J.C. Phelan on his election as CATA Chairman for 2022/2023, which comes 14 years after his father served in that role, and I look forward to my new role as Chairman of the 2023 Chicago Auto Show.