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Thursday, December 08, 2005 

Vol. I No.2

What a (J.D.) Power Play…

[Note: it is my intent to report on things contemporaneously, as I experience them, but, because I attended some very worthwhile events last month, my first few entries will refer to events of the last couple weeks, in chronological order. Don’t worry I’ll catch up in a few days…]

Of all of the auto industry related conferences and events I attend (usually several a month), one of my favorites, and maybe one of the best kept secrets in the industry are the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtables. They’re held a couple of times a year in the US (and once or twice a year outside the US), usually just before or concurrent with a major industry convention. The Roundtable conference I just attended, November 1-3, in Las Vegas, coincided with the gigantic Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show (no secret here). It was one of the best I’d ever attended, and while I haven’t been going all 20 years the J.D. Power folks have been doing these, I’ve been a regular attendee for a long time.

While at these Power Roundtables, you not only get to see presentations by the CEOs and leaders of the biggest players in the car business (manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, etc.), but you sit next to them in the audience. For me it adds to the quality of the event when the people sitting next to you lead some of the largest Fortune 500 car-related companies. This recent one, however, was even more interesting and relevant, being the first one designed and orchestrated by my old friend Charlie Vogelheim, now the Vice President, Automotive Development at J.D. Power. Charlie and I started in the car business around the same time about 20 or so years ago (although no one would argue that he has aged a lot better), and as well as having a “stage presence” and wit that could put him on the short list to replace Jay Leno someday, his background, as the former Senior Editor of Kelley Blue Book for many years, has given him a really keen handle on how the industry works and new developments on the horizon.

I think the majority of the attendees would agree that Charlie did an effective job of translating his knowledge into a unique conference. For the first time I can recall the Roundtable program has divided into two elements – the automotive review that everyone expects – plus a day and half focused on a new “Internet Automotive Roundtable” which featured panel presentations related to “The Future of Automotive Internet Marketing for Dealers” and “The Current State and Future Potential of Automotive Internet.” Panel presentations on drilled down topics such as “Search and the Future of Search” were populated by people from Yahoo! and Google, not just the normal slew of manufacturer advertising execs. In fact, due to the nature and content of the forum, the average age of the audience was brought down noticeably from past Roundtables, as it consisted not only of the normal MI & CA suit execs, but lots and lots of people from Yahoo, Google, Cnet, etc.

In short, Charlie’s steered the Roundtable to focus on the developments resulting from the convergence of the old line automotive world with the new online innovations. Perfect for me and lots of others who attended, a unique mix and presentation. About the only downside was the fact that with all of the “twenty & thirty somethings” in the crowd, I for the first time began to feel old in one of the last forums I could usually count on to make me feel young…

Good job Charlie…for the industry’s sake I hope you don’t replace Leno too soon…

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