ancover0409A couple of months ago I was interviewed by Associations Now magazine for an article on AMA CEO Rob Dingman. The author did a good job. The article is on the challenges and problems Dingman has faced, and is facing, remaking the U.S.’ largest motorcycle rider association.

I want to thank the author, Kim Fernandez, for quoting me correctly and in context. That’s increasingly rare in this age of sensationalism and spin.

From Mike Kincaid of Rampant Racing comes this link to two video interviews over at SPEED. There is a 4 1/2-minute interview with Rob Dingman, AMA president, and a much more informative 10-minute interview with Roger Edmondson of the Daytona Motorsports Group. If you are concerned about the future of American motorcycle racing I think the Edmondson interview will give you hope.

New message from AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman, posted on the AMA website earlier this week [found via Ed Kuhlenkamp], adds a little clarity to the direction of Dingman’s AMA. In summary, Dingman reiterates his commitment to build member benefits and refocus on those things that are important to members. This is a good thing.

But as we have noted here before, the AMA attempts to serve multiple constituencies with differing goals, needs, and objectives. It is far from a given that those goals and objectives are mutually compatible. I appreciate Dingman’s apparent sincerity and his desire to do the right things, but until I see someone speak forthrightly to the conflicts inherent in this approach I remain skeptical that one organization can make this work. To my knowledge no single organization has ever done this. The AMA has certainly not managed it in more than 80 years of trying. Can they in the future? The first step is to admit that this challenge is real and substantial. Failing that, the answer is definitely no.

The official vision statement for the “new” AMA was posted today on the AMA home. It contains much the same content as his previous announcement at AMA Pro Racing, with a little more detail and information geared to general membership.

Basically, the vision is to do fewer things and do them better – refocus on the core mission, improve member services, improve government relations. That’s great stuff. My only question: which members — industry or riders? Because we are not the same.

I’m a full two months late, but yesterday I finally found time to listen to AMA president Rob Dingman’s segment during the October 9 Pitpass Radio show. Dingman is a reasonable fellow and has a  big job ahead. He clearly understands the organization needs to regroup, refocus on its core mission, and do a much better job at fewer tasks. Dingman has previously served as the AMA’s chief lobbyist in DC, so he has important insight and experience in the area that is probably most critical to our future.

A few facts from the interview:

  • There are now about 290,000 members in the AMA, more than they’ve ever had.
  • There are between 3 million and 6 million motorcyclists in the US (everyone agreed the number is closer to 6 million)
  • The number one reason people give for joining/renewing with the AMA is the government relations activity.

When it came to talking about the new vision Dingman had some interesting things to say. First he reiterated that the AMA just doesn’t  have the resources to be an effective race promotion organization. He brought up the AMA vs NASCAR scenario and pointed out, quite rightly, that NASCAR’s marketing team alone is bigger than the whole AMA race organization. I don’t want to belabor this right now — I wrote about it in some detail before. But while what Dingman says is true and accurate and perhaps now that the AMA is getting out of the race promotion business we should accept it and move on, we need to be sure we’ve drawn the correct conclusions from this fact before we do. But I’ll address this in a future piece on some things I’d like to see the AMA do going forward.

The second thing Dingman said was that while the organization needs to do a better job at government relations, the staff is limited in much the same way as the racing organization. He noted that the association’s approach is to rely mainly on membership to move things forward by notifying the association and asking for guidance if needed, but doing most of it themselves. Frankly, this is completely inadequate but it’s a true reflection of how the AMA has operated for as long as I can remember. As a former AMA lobbyist Dingman knows this stuff as well as anyone, and I trust he knows what it takes to do a good job of it. I’m pretty sure he knows this isn’t going to cut it but he made no mention of any new approach. I had high hopes that the reduction in racing would mean more resources would go to this vital function, but so far no indication of that.

At this point in the interview host Scott Casber asked about the AMA’s historical mission (from 1924?) being to fight restrictive laws. I’m not sure where that came from. It’s not on the AMA history page and I don’t have any other info. If there is a charter online I can’t find it.

The third interesting thing Dingman said was that being in the race promotion business was creating a lot of conflict and controversy that was just not good for the organization. While he didn’t get into specifics, he made it clear that the controversy around the racing organization, and the confusion of sanctioning and promoting, was creating problems with corporate members. I am still not clear on the role corporate members play, mostly in regard to how much money they contribute to the organization. I know they hold half the board seats and they all get votes at corporate meetings. But I don’t know how much of the AMA’s money comes from them. I’d sure like to know that. More on that later, too. In any case, Dingman seemed to feel strongly the AMA’s image has been somehow tarnished by this controversy, that it’s preventing companies from partnering with the AMA, and that fixing this is the key to the association’s growth. He’s on the inside and should know, but it’s hard to see how this is the main problem.

All in, it was a pretty good interview. Dingman sees the need for change, I’m just not sure he sees taking it far enough. But he’s the best thing to happen to the AMA in a long time. We’ll continue to investigate how the organization works and try to understand how it can better serve the needs of riders, all with the goal of figuring out if the AMA is, indeed, the right organization to take us forward.

This week’s PitPass Radio show had AMA president Rob Dingman scheduled for the 2nd hour. Due to my wretched travel schedule the last few months I missed the live show and haven’t had time to listen to the MP3 yet. I’m interested to hear what Dingman had to say regarding his new vision. I’ll post some thoughts on it once I get a chance to listen.