Exclusive Pre-Expo Interview with OIADA Director - Wendy Rinehart

September 14, 2023| Zach Klempf

In this special episode, Zach interviews Wendy Rinehart, the executive director of the OIADA, they discuss the strides OIADA is making in the industry, the upcoming OIADA conference, and much more.

Zach: Hello, Zach here, and we have a great guest on the podcast for a second year in a row, Wendy Reinhart, the executive director of the Ohio Independent Auto Dealer Association. Wendy, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.

Wendy: Hey, Zach, thanks for having me back. I always love talking with you.

Zach: I know, and the last episode was great. So, I know this one is going to be great as well. Before we do a deep dive into the intricate world of the Ohio Independent Auto Dealer Association, let's get started. Let's get to know you a little better with two icebreakers. The first one, do you remember the first car you owned? And what was that car?

Wendy: My first car was a 1976 Chevy Monza, purchased for me by my grandfather because he felt bad that I had to ride the bus to school. Being a baby born on the fourth of July, all of my birthday cakes, outfits, and everything I had growing up were red, white, and blue stars and flags. Those are three colors that I'm not fond of together. I'm very patriotic, but those colors just wore me out as a child. So, my 1976 Chevy Monza was the "Spirit of 76" edition with little red, white, and blue eagles on the upholstery.

Zach: That is awesome. I'll never forget that car. Staying on the theme of firsts, describe the scene the first time you went to a used car auction. What were some of the thoughts and emotions that ran through your mind?

Wendy: Well, I started a little differently. The first time I was at an auction, I was an employee. I was the head title clerk for Manheim, Ohio. So, the first time I went to an auction, I thought, "Wow, this is organized chaos." It didn't really have a lot of impact on me. But the first time I went out as a dealer, it was a Ford factory sale, a closed sale. I remember walking out into the arena with the catalog highlighted with everything I had to buy. One of the Ford dealers ran up to me and said, "Hey, when you go back inside, can you check on a title for me?" I just looked at him and said, "No, I'm one of you now, and I have no idea what I'm doing." So, could you help me? The Ford guys literally trained me on how to buy cars and what to do out there as a dealer. The panic was definitely there.

Zach: Wow, that's a great story. As we know, the OIADA conference is on October 14th, just around the corner. Could you share some of the highlights and what dealers can expect from this event?

Wendy: This year, dealers have an entire day with 12 different breakout classes. We have wonderful speakers like yourself coming in from all over the country to train these guys on everything they need to know. We have sessions for "buy here, pay here" dealers, retail dealers, compliance training, and technology. Everything you could want to know, we have it there. The classes run from 9:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon. The vendor hall will feature over 40 vendors that want to do business with independent dealers. We'll provide breakfast and lunch; we just need them all to come out and learn as much as possible in one day. It's an awesome deal for the dealers. 

Zach: I know last year was a great show, so I'm really looking forward to this year. Now, a question about IADA. From your perspective, let's say I'm a used car dealer. What are the core benefits of aligning myself with my state IADA, specifically OIADA?

Wendy: Speaking just for Ohio, because other states might be different, there's no real resource in your state to find out answers. If you have a question about a business practice or a customer complaint, or just want to know what's happening, having a relationship with your Independent Auto Dealer Association is where you'll get honest and truthful answers. I'm pretty sure the majority of us have attorneys on retainer or on staff that can help with the legal side of everything, saving the dealer a ton of money.

Zach: Definitely. The past few years have been a real test of resilience for many businesses, including used car dealers, coming out of the pandemic. How has the OIADA been assisting Ohio dealers in navigating the post-pandemic automotive environment?

Wendy: We're trying to get the dealers to look at the future, and the future is not going to involve sitting at your lot and waiting for customers to come and look at your cars. You've got to embrace technology. We're helping them get to the next level where your website has to stand out. You need to be online, have an online presence, and be able to do online deliveries. The laws have changed here in Ohio, making it a lot easier for these guys to do online transactions. Maybe we'll talk about that.

Zach: Very true. That leads me to my next question. Online dealers like Carvana have started to become more of household names. However, they've also faced their fair share of challenges, especially given recent market pressures. What's your take on their business model and the future trajectory of these companies?

Wendy: I think those companies have shown us that there is a customer base out there that does not want to come to your dealership. They want to sit at home, maintain their privacy, order what they want, and have it brought to them. These companies are big and face many challenges with titles and such. I hope they work them out and that customers don't face any issues. But it's proven to our smaller dealers that this is a market they need to embrace if they want to stay in the game.

Zach: Definitely. Another disruptor is the electric vehicle revolution, a hot topic in the industry right now. How do you foresee EV sales and associated changes like battery warranties or charging infrastructure impacting traditional used car dealers?

Wendy: I'm not in my twenties or thirties, so the electric vehicle concept just baffles me. I personally think that hybrids were the way to go. A good friend of mine told me that Americans aren't really sure they like electric vehicles because we value our freedom. The average person might only drive 30 or 40 miles a day, but they might want to drive from Ohio to Texas, which an electric vehicle might not allow. Americans don't want to be told "you can't", even if we probably won't do it. We just don't want to be told we can't. I think we have a lot of people who will not embrace EVs, but there's a big demographic of young people who really like the idea. However, I see issues with batteries, repairs, and wear and tear hurting the lower-end customer. In ten years, if the electric vehicle really makes its presence known as the government wants, will they be able to afford them or have them fixed? Who will train the mechanics? It's scary.
Zach: Yeah, that's a great point, especially regarding the batteries. They only have a 10-year warranty, and the replacement cost is often like totaling out the vehicle just to get the battery repaired.

Wendy: Yeah, and I don't see service contract companies stepping up to cover it, at least not yet.

Zach: The Ohio Independent Auto Dealer Association, under your guidance, has always been very proactive and future-forward. I wanted to congratulate you on that. Are there any upcoming initiatives or projects that our listeners should be excited about?

Wendy: I'm not sure if they should be excited, but they should stay tuned. The state of Ohio does a five-year review on all the rules that pertain to us as dealers. The 33 administrative codes that govern our rules and regulations were up for review last year, but they couldn't get done. They asked for an extension, and that time is now. All of these changes are due by the end of this week from our Bureau of Motor Vehicles. We'll be watching to see what the BMV is trying to change or tweak. Once we know, we'll be fighting or supporting them as our industry wants us to. So, everyone needs to stay tuned for any upcoming changes. In November, I'll announce that starting in 2024, the federal government will require us to complete our 8300 forms online instead of on paper. I'll send out all the directions and details about that closer to the end of the year since it doesn't happen until 2024.

Zach: Got it. Before we wrap up, Wendy, is there any other exciting news or updates you'd like to share with our audience, whether that's related to OIADA or something personal you're passionate about?

Wendy: I'm passionate about animals. I know that's weird being a car girl. So if you're going to get an animal, go to a shelter, don't buy it from a pet store, and make sure to spay and neuter your animals, all that fun stuff. But the association just needs dealer feedback. I am excited anytime a dealer calls us and says, "This is something that is bothering me that I wish we could change." I may not be able to change it, but it goes in my head, and anytime I get the opportunity to fight it or do something about it, I do. So I just need dealer feedback. We're always looking for young, innovative dealers with great new ideas. So if anybody has a passion to serve on a board, we always look for board members. We would love to hear from them.

Zach: Awesome. Well, Wendy, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today. And for everyone listening, if you're in Ohio, or if you're an Ohio dealer, remember October 14th is the date for the annual Expo. 

Wendy: It will be held at the Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center in Lewis Center, Ohio. Admission for the dealer is free; I just need them to register in advance so we have the right head count for food.

Zach: Awesome, Wendy. Well, thanks again for joining us today. And that's another episode of the Used Car Dealer podcast.

Wendy: Thanks, Zach.

Tags: carvana used car dealers automotive industry auto industry OIADA Ohio Independent Auto Dealer Association EV electronic vehicle Battery Electric Vehicles BEVs conference

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