Before taking the reins of Wilson Motor Company, Chris Wilson watched his father, Clair, deal with the ups and downs that come with running the family-owned business on Logan’s Main Street.
One of the times the junior Wilson still remembers, three decades out, is when manufacturers threatened the dealership, and a trade association known as NCDU, or the New Car Dealers of Utah, came to its aid.
“I don’t even know if Wilson Motor would still be here without help of the New Car Dealers of Utah,” Wilson said.
Thanks to the trade association’s help, he said, Wilson Motor Company has continued for 76 years — and counting — ever since it was purchased in 1943 by his grandfather, Floyd, and then bought by his father in the seventies. Chris Wilson purchased the dealership in 2009. His father died in 2016.
Now, as the president of the New Car Dealers of Utah for the year, the junior Wilson said he’s helping to protect consumers in an industry that nets over $2 billion a year. But he’s also doing so much more, including visiting more than 100 car dealers around the state and spending time with Utah’s state and federal delegations of lawmakers to keep customers and employees up to speed on legislation that could impact them.
The NCDU was founded in 1923 and currently provides dealerships that sell new, used and pre-owned cars with health trust insurance, legal counsel, ways to help them gain media attention and ways to help employees get continuing education.
“It’s a great industry,” Wilson said of selling cars. “It gets in your blood.”
Wilson sat down with The Herald Journal in his office on Main Street last week to talk about the NCDU and running a dealership.
Herald Journal: How do you feel about your appointment as president of the NCDU?
Chris Wilson: I feel very honored and it’s a privilege. I really believe in it because it’s helped us and it’s helped a lot dealers, especially the small-town dealers that don’t have the big, big-time resources that big dealers have.
HJ: How does this organization help the boots on the ground, so to speak — the employees at car dealers?
CW: I think the biggest thing right now is the New Car Dealers of Utah, we’ve been doing a lot of training with the new employees. So recently, we’ve had training for service advisers; we have training for office people, managers; HR training; we have training for salespeople.
The other thing we do is best practices, so if there’s something thing that’s going well at one dealership, then we will let other dealerships be aware of it.
We have a close relationship with Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division, Highway Patrol, the Department of Commerce. If any of those organizations have information or talking about new regulations, or anything they may be having an issue with, they’ll come to the New Car Dealers of Utah. … All these state organizations don’t have to go to each individual dealership; they can just come to us and then we’ll relay that information to all the dealers if there’s anything coming up.
HJ: If you didn’t have NCDU, what would that mean for dealers?
CW: Well, one thing it helps us do is we help with legislation. … It comes home for me in our dealership because we have some rules that will protect us from the manufacturers. … If we didn’t have the legislation in place that happened to us in the ‘80s, they could come in here and basically say, “I’m going to take your franchise and walk away.”
So what it makes the manufacturer do is it makes them go through a system. What the group (NCDU) does is promote legislation that helps levels the playing field … that the manufacturers can’t come in and eliminate any dealer they want to for discriminatory reasons.
HJ: Will Wilson Motor Company see any impacts as a result of what you’re doing at NCDU?
CW: Yeah. … It was information that not only the New Car Dealers of Utah have sent out, but also our national (organization) sent our information (and) I’ve taken the information about how the consumers want a quicker service, so I’ve committed to upgrade our facility. We’ve made changes in our parts department and our service department to make it more seamless for customers.
HJ: I think some people see car dealers as caring more about sales than customers, but do you think a car dealer is supposed to be part of the fabric of the community?
CW: That’s exactly right. Being a third generation car dealer, we have customers literally that are four- and five-year generations that have been buying here. We are so fortunate because we have longtime very, very loyal customers here in Cache Valley. My dad taught me … that our customers are our friends.
HJ: So it would be a misconception to say a car dealer is all about sales and not about the customer.
CW: Our saying is, “We make car buying easy.” The reason why we do that is we don’t sell vehicles, we help people buy the vehicle that will best suit them.
My dad made a comment some years ago. He says, “If we have to do some of the sales practices that some of the big boys do, I’m getting out of the business.” He said, “I’m living in this community. I’m not going to do that to our customers.”