Peter Welch, who has served as president and CEO of the Sacramento-based California New Car Dealers Association since 2003, has been selected as the new president of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Welch will take the helm at NADA, based in McLean, Va., on Feb. 1.
"I'm excited and honored to be selected as the next NADA president, but I'll miss California and miss working for the state's best entrepreneurs," said Welch, 59.
The Detroit native added: "NADA is a well-run organization. I look forward to following in the tradition of strong leadership at NADA. I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get started."
Welch was a tireless promoter of the state's auto industry during the recession, which saw scores of dealers close their doors statewide.
As the face of CNCDA, he has seen a dramatic reversal over the past couple of years.
When all 2012 new-car vehicle registrations are counted, CNCDA estimates that California dealers will have sold 1.6 million units last year, which would be a 24 percent improvement over about 1.29 million in 2011.
At NADA, he will head up one of the most influential automotive organizations in the United States.
NADA officials said Welch was the unanimous choice of its board of directors, meeting in Dallas, following a nationwide search.
"Peter will be a great leader at NADA," said Bill Underriner, NADA chairman.
"He has an impressive track record in California, where every day he faced some of the toughest regulatory and legislative issues in the industry.
"He's a car guy who comes highly recommended not just from people in California but also across the nation."
CNCDA Chairman Darryl Holter, dealer/operator of the Downtown L.A. Auto Group, said CNCDA has formed a search committee to find a replacement for Welch and has retained an executive search firm to assist with that effort.
CNCDA is the nation's largest state association of franchised new car and truck dealers, representing nearly 1,300 dealers.
NADA, which traces its roots back to 1917, represents nearly 16,000 new- vehicle dealers.