NCMDA Looks for Association Members

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The organization looks for ways to get dealers involved with their state organizations

Dealer Expo Indy 2009 NCMDA

Ed Lemco is orchestrating what might be the perfect enticement to join a state dealer association: affordable health insurance. But to gain enough members to form such a buying group (3,000, he says) the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations will have to change its membership structure, allowing dealers to join instead of just association directors.

During February's annual meeting at Dealer Expo, most NCMDA members agreed that getting dealers involved continues to be a challenge. Helping fund lobbying for franchise laws, land access, favorable taxation and so on doesn't seem to be a hot button with most dealers, many of whom are happy to let others fund such efforts, they said. State association dues can range from as little as $360 in Illinois to up to $6,000 in Arizona (based on a sliding scale). And what each association offers varies wildly. Big states have the budgets to offer services that directly affect a dealer's pocketbook. California's association, for example, reportedly enjoys a high membership rate thanks largely to its affordable worker's comp policy. But many smaller states just don't have enough franchised dealers to warrant the hiring of an executive director for a state association, much less obtain services.

A solution coming out of the NCMDA meeting was the idea of a more regional approach — one in which an executive director manages more than one state association. (Virginia and Maryland currently share a director.) Lemco said he wants to plan a summer meeting with dealers from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia with the idea of sharing a director, but leaving each state to handle its own lobby representation, due to variations in state laws.

The health insurance incentive was brought up by Lemco after the meeting. He claims to be talking with a "major insurance company" that wishes to remain anonymous during negotiations. (Zurich, along with Dealernews, were the sole sponsors of this year's and last year's meetings.) If the health initiative works,

other insurance products may follow, such as worker's comp, Lemco noted.

Not overly familiar with the NCMDA? You probably know of Ed Lemco, the founder of what is now the industry's largest network of 20 groups. He also helped run the first national dealer association in the 1970s (broken off from the MIC), and has been involved in various dealer advocacy groups ever since. He founded the NCMDA in late 2005 as a nonprofit corporation. Lemco now operates a dealer consultancy in the Virgin Islands, and is a partner in five Harley-Davidson dealerships. He claims to donate about 10 percent of his time, along with 15 percent to 20 percent of an employee's time, to NCMDA business.

The NCMDA's first annual meeting, last year in Dallas, attracted 14 states. Its second meeting, held during Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, was a bit more successful: 18 states showed up. These meetings, some consulting work and facilitating dialogue among the state associations have been the extent of the NCMDA's services up to now. The organization's budget for 2008 was about $12,000, Lemco said. Associations don't pay dues, but they do pay to attend the meetings.

Lemco said there are seven "dynamic" associations and 15 active ones in the United States — 22 total, geared solely for powersports dealers. Five states have contacted the council for assistance in forming or reviving associations. Taking into account all states, Lemco guesses that maybe 20 percent of franchised dealers belong to an association, but acknowledges that it could be closer to 10 percent.

Arlo Redwine