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Thursday, December 29, 2005 

Vol. I No. 8

2005 in Review (or how I put all on all those air miles…)

It’s that time of year when you sit around a holiday table and explain to your aging relatives why you don’t call enough (I’ve given up on explaining what I do, kind of afraid to say I sell used cars…). I’m reminded of the idea that those who do not study (or at least review) the past are condemned to repeat it, although I’m already scheduled to repeat at least half of it next year, here’s a synopsis of the major auto events I attended in 2005:

January – JD Power International Automotive Roundtable and National Automobile Dealer Association Convention & Exposition (back to back) – last year it was in New Orleans, LA, and was especially memorable, as I had time to not only attend car things but some local institutions as well, before the Katrina tragedy and devastation. While the Roundtable and the NADA Convention were first class events, I had the incredible luck to get a front row table in a little local jazz club that just happened to be featuring the legendary Marsalis family that night – Ellis, Branford and Wynton. Let’s all do what we can to help this special city once again revive its unique culture and vitality.

February – More back-to-back conferences, this time the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance Roundtable, followed by Bobit Business Media’s Conference on Automotive Remarketing (CAR) in good old Las Vegas, NV. CAR is my favorite remarketing conference, and attended by all of the major remarketing practioners in the industry, from the manufacturers, retail lessors, commercial fleet management companies, etc. Cram packed with information, it’s also a lot of fun…plus, it’s in Vegas in February, so it keeps me out of snowy Chicago and Philadelphia…

March – Kind of a light month for events, but that didn’t stop me from going back to Las Vegas for Bobit Business Media’s Limousine & Chauffer Show – how many of you out there even knew there was a special conference just for Limo people?

April – If it’s springtime, it’s the National Association of Fleet Administrators Annual Conference & Exposition, last year in Dallas, TX. Given that this is the largest event of its kind, uniting more than a dozen or so regional NAFA chapter members, it hosts thousands of corporate and municipal fleet administrators (read, clients for my day job). I really had to work at this one…booths, networking parties, dinners & lunches – Only took a few days, and nights, of this to remind me of how old I’m getting – used to be able to go to these things with no “morning after” effects…

April also was the month for the inaugural conference of the National Association of Dealer Counsel (NADC), held in Atlanta, GA. Just formed in 2004, the NADC is a group of attorneys who focus on automotive issues and clients (from law firms to large dealer group in-house counsel, to automotive vendor counsel, etc.). This group certainly addresses a need; it’s amazing an organization like this wasn’t created long ago.

May – This time two conferences back-to-back, but on opposite ends of the country. First the annual I-Remarketing Conference, which, as its name suggests, is a forum for Internet-focused vehicle remarketing topics held annually by AutoRemarketing Magazine, in Phoenix, AZ.

The next day the National Vehicle Leasing Association (NVLA) Conference, the annual event that unites all of the NVLA Chapters around the country, was held in Orlando, FL. NVLA is made up of leasing companies that satisfy the transportation needs of small and mid-sized business around the country.

June – The National Independent Automobile Dealer Association Convention, held this year in Atlanta, GA, is focused on the non- franchised (used) car dealers around the nation. There are a lot more independent dealers out there than franchised dealers (over a two-to-one ratio), so this gathering presents a different perspective on retail than the manufacturer-dominated NADA.

July – Bet you would think July would be a slow month in the car convention business, mimicking retail sales, wouldn’t you? Not really, as there were three major events this month.

First, Driveitaway held our own, first-ever, “Remarketing Roadshow” in conjunction with our friends at LeasePlanUSA and Manheim Auctions, in New York City, NY. Our half-day seminar, entitled, “Sound Remarketing Strategies in an Uncertain Market” was well attended and received, even if it was pushing 98 degrees in the city. Can’t resist inserting a little panel discussion picture here…
Remarketing Roadshow Panel

Next, came the annual Ford Fleet Division Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Yes, this is the show that Ford puts on to highlight their vehicles that are particularly useful for fleet service for corporate, municipal and daily rental buyers.

Finally, the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA) mid-year roundtable was held the end of July, in Atlanta, GA. This one was held at the Manheim DriveCenter, always a great locale for an event (see Vol. 1 No. 4), and was marked by record attendance.

September – My favorite trade association, the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) held their annual conference this month, in Phoenix, AZ. We started a tradition this year and, on top of all of the scheduled events, we threw our own little party for a few hundred of our closest friends…the association is made up of the most experienced group of corporate fleet managers, manufacturers fleet directors, dealer fleet managers, etc;, out there. The AFLA conference turned out to be one of, if not the, best event of the year, although next time I really should schedule our party for night when I’m not supposed to appear on a conference panel early the next morning…

Next I attended Bobit Business Media’s Car Rental Show in Las Vegas, NV. This is another event I’ve attended for many, many years, and while the car rental industry has been through many substantial changes (and will go through many more in the next year or so from what I can see), fortunately I have many old friends who are “regulars” in this group as well.

Rounding out September was the Auto Finance Summit back in Las Vegas, NV, put on by Royal Media. Focused on automotive financing, this event got all of the country’s leading automotive financing groups (banks, captive finance companies, etc.) all in one place for a multi-day conference…and as this was the first time I’d ever been to the Wynn, the newest hotel on the strip, it was no chore to attend.

Finally, towards the end of the month the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA) had their annual conference, in Scottsdale, AZ. Now, this is an organization made up of the hundreds of wholesale auto auctions around the country, and although many have online programs, as well “bricks and mortar” facilities, they regard “Internet only” companies like ours as the competition; and so I was never invited to attend. No matter, despite what it would seem I have many long time friends who are members of the NAAA, as well as vendors attending their annual event, so I went anyway. Unlike Groucho Marx, I would belong to this “club” if they let someone like me in as a member…

October – Started the month off at the National Fleet Resale Dealers (NAFRD) annual conference in Palm Springs, CA. This group, made up exclusively of used car dealers who buy corporate fleet vehicles and then resell them (either wholesale or retail), has been around a long time and I look forward to getting together with them every year. I have lots to learn about used car dealing from these folks.

Closed the month out at AutoRemarketing’s annual National Remarketing Conference & Used Car Expo in Orlando, FL. Once again got to touch base with a variety of expert remarketing practioners from all sectors of the business (retail banks, manufacturers, commercial etc.).

November – See the first few blog entries for details on the JD Power International Roundtable & the SEMA show in Las Vegas, NV, and Bobit Business Media’s F & I Conference also in Las Vegas, NV.
I made it to a few NAFA chapter holiday parties in Chicago, IL & Kansas City, MO, this month, just to round out the year.

Of course the events above don’t include my normal travels to clients around the country, or certain investors abroad, but it gives you an idea of the major industry events that have become a staple for people like me now for many years. Guess you have to like cars (and liking Vegas doesn’t hurt either…). Happy New Year folks…

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