This post is an interview with Bill Sepic, President of the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association (WATDA), the only auto trade organization representing franchised automobile, truck and independent car dealers in the country. Bill has been the President of WATDA for eight years after 21 years of holding several Chamber of Commerce positions across the midwest. Below, Bill shares his experience working for the WATDA, discusses industry trends and offers retail automotive career advice.
What do you do for the WATDA?
I manage multiple components of the association: The actual nonprofit itself, our for profit subsidiary, and also our charitable foundation. My team of around 20-employees represent more than 700 new and used car, truck, recreational vehicle and motorcycle dealerships. We do that in mny ways, one of which is both at the state and nation’s legislature.
Additionally, the association is a source of legal information for the members, with the goal of helping members make better business decisions along with providing educational opportunities on rules and regulations impacting the industry.
Our for profit focuses on all the wonderful paperwork that needs to be filled out each time a car is purchased. WATDA markets these materials (the association owns copyrights on some of these forms) to dealerships across the state.
Tell me a little bit more about the WATDA charity:
Through a partnership with SnapOn tools, the WATDA Foundation operates a charity that gives around 100 scholarships a year to individuals who want to get into technical training. For more than 20-years the charity has worked with a number of high schools and tech schools in Wisconsin to provide educational opportunities in a field that desperately needs additional bodies.
What trends or issues going on in the industry keep you up at night?
I’ve noticed several trends in the retail automotive industry. The first is the way entrepreneurs are having their independence taken away. In the past, a dealer had a much larger margin on each vehicle sold. Now this margin is almost gone. Each day, we struggle with OEMs from controlling more and more of the sales process.
I worry about declining opportunities for the local new car dealers. It’s a dance between the OEM and the dealership and what I can do, and the WATDA can do, to mitigate this on a daily basis.
How has technology impacted a dealership’s day-to-day operations?
In this day, car buyers know exactly what they want when they walk into the store, making it necessary for a sales person to be very well educated on all products. The dealership needs good sales people that know how to close a deal, they need to be knowledgeable, and they need to be able to adapt.
What advice do you have for those entering the retail automotive workforce?
There are so many career opportunities in the retail automotive industry. You can grow to be as advanced as you want, as social as you want, as creative as you want. As an aspiring retail automotive worker, go somewhere you believe in the product.