Money problems nearly derailed the newly formed National Tire Dealers Association in its very first year and continued to haunt the organization over much of its early history. During the 10 months between the NTDA's January founding and its 1921 convention in Cleveland, the association over spent its resources-winding up $2,032 in the red.
The NTDA's first president, Thomas F. Whitehead of Chicago, said the budget deficit had occurred due to a lack of experience on the part of the new association's leaders, who he said had mistakenly attempted to accomplish in months what probably would require several more years to carry out.
(In point of fact, some of the issues the new association had sought to resolve during its first 10 months-such as direct selling by manufacturers to national accounts-remain a bone of contention between dealers and their suppliers after 75 years!)
Fortunately for the association, its financial collapse was quickly averted when a number of individuals at the gathering, including Mr. Whitehead himself, donated money to make up the deficit, allowing the association to enter its second year in the black. Not all the association's money problems ended as happily, however.
During the depression-plagued 1930s, for example, the NTDA was obliged to accept financial aid from tire manufacturers in order to weather those lean times. However, such assistance quickly dried up when the National Recovery Act was dissolved in 1935 and a new era got under way.
NTDA becomes NAITD: Because of these financial difficulties and other reasons, a ``new'' association was incorporated in 1935 and its headquarters were established in New York. It was called the National Association of Independent Tire Dealers (NAITD).
The new organization did not formally take over the old NTDA. In particular, it did not take over the indebtedness of the earlier association.
During World War II, with tires and retreads strictly rationed, the NAITD found itself acting as the U.S. government's chief reporting agency to the tire industry via the association's Dealer News magazine.
Membership, which apparently was open to anyone willing to shell out $24 a year to receive the Dealer News,soared during the period to nearly 7,000.
However, the war's end in 1945 brought a sudden exodus of members, dropping membership to 1,311 and shrinking the association's financial resources accordingly.
Making a bad financial predicament even worse, the NAITD in 1948 filed suit against five major tire makers, charging them with ``unfair and discriminatory pricing'' and ``collusion on dealer discounts.''
In retaliation, angry tire makers pulled their advertising out of the association's Dealer News magazine and urged dealers to quit the NAITD.
And, in the words of the late Bill Marsh, who recounted the incident years later during an interview with TIRE BUSINESS, what the loss in membership hadn't already done to deplete the NAITD's treasury, this subsequent loss of advertising revenue completed.
The NAITD's lawsuit was settled four years later, when tire makers, without admitting guilt, agreed to pay the association $75,000 in cash and $49,500 in exchange for advertising in the association's magazine.
Mr. Marsh had just turned 40 in 1949, when he moved to Washington to become the association's executive secretary. Previously, he had been elected second vice president and was a tire dealer in Hamilton, Ohio.
For months, because the previous staff executive had been taken ill and he was the closest elected officer, Mr. Marsh had been commuting between home and Washington to work weekends at the association's offices.
Certain he could straighten matters out in short order, the NAITD's newly enlisted executive secretary soon discovered that getting the association back on its feet was no easy task.
The association's budget in those days was $58,000 and its cash balance often was zero. Mr. Marsh immediately layed off all but four of the association's former staff, explaining that there was ``no money to pay them anyway.'' Often, he had to lock up his own paycheck until there was enough money to cash it, he recalled years later.
In an effort to replenish the association's flagging membership, the young Ohioan and his wife took to the road in their Buick Century to call on dealers. Over two summers, Mr. Marsh wore out the car, but recruited some 500 new members in the process.
Meanwhile, he found himself faced with another daunting challenge-the need to increase attendance at the forthcoming convention in Cincinnati. Mr. Marsh craftily invited four tire company presidents to appear on the convention program, reasoning that tire makers likely would encourage rather than discourage dealers from attending.
The ploy was successful. Attendance in Cincinnati hit 1,100 and continued to rise for many years thereafter. The association's largest convention attendance ever was at Las Vegas in 1970, when more than 12,000 reportedly turned out.