On respect of dealers by manufacturers, Starling said: “As dealers, we need to do what we do best — selling cars and trucks. I'd like all manufacturers to understand: selling cars and trucks is an enormously complex business. We are the experts. We work closer to the consumer than anybody. You don't have to hire any more consultants. If you have questions about the buying public, just talk with us. We know what it takes to satisfy customers. It's time to give our business the respect it deserves.”
On respect of dealers by government, Starling said: "Government is showing a new-found respect for the importance of our nation's auto industry … Our industry's strength contributes to our country's economic stability. Most experts agree: In the last couple of years, our industry has pulled America out of the ditch. Car sales have averted a longer recession and averted a more serious recession … We have a voice that government increasingly listens to and a voice that government increasingly respects."
Starling was less sanguine about dealers' image in the media, which has taken a bashing in recent weeks from consumer organisations complaining about sales methods and F&I rate fixing: “Unfortunately, some members of the media too often fixate on what's wrong with our industry. This is one of the few industries left where a few bad apples get the focus. But when that happens, we respond — assertively and promptly — and we set the record straight … I'm pleased that some in the media have recognized the important work that dealers do on behalf of passenger safety. Fatality and injury rates have reached record highs. The American public needs our help. Every time you promote child safety seats in your stores, every time you set aside a day to show parents how to properly install a booster seat, you are contributing to safety in America. And this story deserves media attention.”
Starling believed dealers themselves were increasingly conscious of their public constituency: “Respect is a two-way street. In other words, if you want to get it, you need to give it. I'm proud to say that today's dealers understand the importance of manufacturers, government and the media. We show our respect by communicating. As dealers, we can never stop communicating with any of our constituencies.”