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.