AUTO History

The History of the Automotive United Trades Organization (AUTO)

In 1984, franchised service station dealers in WA became increasingly concerned over the lack of legal rights they had in the franchise relationship between themselves and the major oil companies. Gov. Gardner and AUTO As a result, dealers from across the state banded together under the leadership of Tim Hamilton who spearheaded a grassroots legislative initiative from his Unocal station in Olympia. The Washington Legislature responded to the dealer’s concerns by passing the Gasoline Dealer’s Bill of Rights (RCW 19.120). The law was signed into effect by then Governor Booth Gardner on April 4, 1986

AUTO was formed as a non-profit trade association dedicated to assisting and representing motor fuel marketers in the state of Washington. For over 25 years AUTO has supported its members who are small businesses that either operate or supply convenience stores, service stations, carwashes, truck stops, and card locks across the state. In 2010, AUTO members were operating approximately 300 motor fuel outlets and supplying over 500 other independent operators usually under the brand name of a major oil company.

AUTO launched one of its highest regarded industry services in 1985 when it published the first version of the BULLETIN. Early Days of the Bulletin Magazine Conceived by former newspaper publisher Tim McAllister who accepted the position of AUTO’s Membership Director, the first versions were similar to a small town newspaper. Over two decades later the format had shifted to a colored magazine format that is mailed to over 1600 petroleum product retailers and wholesalers in the state. ( Read the Bulletin here )

Over the years, AUTO has become the “go to guys” if one wants to understand the laws, franchises, and operational functions of the petroleum distribution system. In addition to responding to the Washington State Legislature, AUTO Exec Hamilton has testified before state legislatures across the nation. He has accepted invitations to present testimony before the US Congress and the Providence of Quebec. He has served on the California Attorney General’s Task Force on higher gasoline prices and provided expertise that has been featured on PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and CNN national broadcasts. Print media has included nearly every publication in Washington and others across the country such as the San Diego News Tribune, Honolulu Advertiser, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal (Read Tim Hamilton's resume here).

AUTO’s roots are deeply imbedded in the day to day functions of running a small business within the petroleum distribution system. Each business day, the AUTO staff talks with the actual owners or visits with them at their place of business. As a result of these in-depth interactions, AUTO’s knowledge of the industry is exceptionally high for a trade association. AUTO members can reach out and secure this pool of knowledge fed by the input of hundreds of their peers with a simple phone call.

As it was in the beginning, AUTO continues to be in the “people business”. Our people just happen to be in the business of operating or supplying retail motor fuel outlets. Accordingly, we are committed to:

  • Helping them get into the business
  • Helping them succeed in the business
  • Helping them exit the business