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Monday, February 19, 2007 

Vol. 3 No. 4


NADA 90th Annual Convention, Part II – Great Cars, A Great Floor Show, Great Parties, and Lots of Old Friends…

As expected, the greatest annual convocation of “car guys,” didn’t disappoint and kept me moving 20 hours a day for about five days. As I said last year, one of things I like best is that this convention is big and bad enough to unite all “car guys,” even if they don’t work directly in the car business. It also is the once a year event that gets “car guys” from all corners of the world, from every continent, for those few days united, focused on all things related to, well, cars....

Once again, the shear square footage of exhibitors on the exhibition floor is amazing. You really can not cover it all well in even two days worth of time. Over six hundred vendors, many with two story booths, working kitchens and bars, overstocked with food and candy – let’s just say walking the place for the better part of two days wasn’t a chore and you would never go hungry. Interestingly, two of the most popular booths were from two distributors of China-made cars looking for US Dealers. While neither China American Cooperative Automotive, Inc., of Parippany, NJ nor Miles Automotive Group, of Los Angeles represent major vehicle suppliers in China, that didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of dealers looking for distribution rights.



Demetra Markopoulos from Driveitaway meets various "characters" on the NADA Convention Floor - (from left to right) "The Car-Diologist," "The OVE Ferret," and "George W. Bush" (about as genuine as the Dr. or the Ferret)

Also once again, just walking the massive exposition floor I ran into many old friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen in months or in some cases years. I’m especially glad I got to spend some time with Warren Brown from the Washington Post. Warren is one of those industry veteran auto journalists who I never fail to learn many new things about the business every time we have a conversation. I’m also glad I got to meet, for the first time, Chris Woodyard, the automotive writer for USAToday. As one can probably tell from these blog entries, I’m kind fancy myself as a (very) amateur (very, very) frustrated automotive journalist myself, of sorts, so it’s really a fun for me to converse a bit with the professionals.

I’m proud to say that this year’s Convention Chairman was none other than David Penske, from David Penske Chevrolet, in King of Prussia, right outside of my hometown of Philadelphia, and he put on quite a show. With keynote speakers Richard Colliver, EVP of Sales, Honda of American, and Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of GE, motivational speaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Fox News Anchor Stuart Varney as a moderator, there were enough celebrities on the podium to usher in Dale Willey, the new NADA Chairman, taking over the top roll from outgoing Chairman William Bradshaw.

During the convention exposition, there were, of course, dozens of simultaneous workshops going on, grouped this year into six different topic tracks – “Strategic Business Management and Succession Planning,” “Business Development,” “Vehicle Sales,” “Fixed Operations,” “Human Resource Management,” and “Technology.” Topics titles ranged from, “Anatomy of a Construction Budget” to “How to Sell an Extra 100 Cars a Month;” from, “The Psychology of Service Selling” to “Dysfunctional Family – Functional Business: Navigating the Landmines of a Family Business.”

In addition, it was a year of fairly challenging manufacturer “make” meetings, that is, the organized meetings where the manufacturers address only their dealer body in a closed door sessions, where even the press is not allowed to attend. And speaking of the press, this year there were no fewer than 17 press conference scheduled over a three day period (that’s about five more than last year, as a I recall): from Manheim Auctions, who once again introduced this year’s annual Manheim Market Report (glad to say it forecast that, as expected, less than half of the vehicles supplied to rental car companies this year will be program “buy back” units – it may not mean much to most, but this prognostication means a lot to me), to F & I Magazine’s annual “F & I Dealer of the Year” presentation, to a brand new woman focused Web based offering with the name of “AskPatty.com, Inc.”


Give Me the Night (or, Why I lost my Voice by Monday Morning)

The View of Las Vegas from Jaguar Landrover Party at Mix at THEHotel

I guess it may be typical for most large conventions to host a reception or two after the days work activities, but what is normal for most conventions goes to the “extreme” for NADA – that by the way, is what I like most about the car business, its filled with “extremes”…conventions, personalities, etc. (that’s the why it’s the only place I feel I fit in).

Of course I could only go to a small handful of the dozens of receptions and parties going on each night. However, once again, to give a sense of scale here, I’ll list the receptions and parties I knew about (and again, there were probably double this number, as most go unpublished and/or I don’t get invited to them), not counting the 23 different State Automotive Dealer Association functions:

Friday, Feb 2nd
Automotive Youth Educational Systems, Inc.
Autoteam America
General Motors & GMAC Financial Services
NADA/Dealer Academy
Incisent Technologies/First Look
Credit Union Direct Lending
ATAE
DaimlerChrysler Minority Dealers Association
General Motors Minority Dealers Association
The Wall Street Journal

Saturday, Feb 3rd
ADP Dealer Services
Audi, Bentley Volkswagen
Cobalt Group and Dealix Corp
Bank of America
Stone Eagle Group
General Motors Vehicle Divisions and GMAC Financial Services
Mitsubishi Motors North America
Northwood University
O’Connor & Drew PC and Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association
Jaguar Land Rover
Resource Automotive Group
American Suzuki Motor Corp.
RouteOne LLC
Isuzu Motors America
United Car Care Inc.
Zurich
Kia

Sunday, Feb 4th
North American Dealer Co-Op
Ford Motor Company
Mazda North American Operations
Subaru of America
Hyundai Motor America
Toyota
DealerTrack
Universal Warranty
[And the Super Bowl afternoon bash that I attended, hosted by CNA Insurance]

So who threw the best party this year? If I have to narrow it down to one single event, I have to say that, for venue alone, the Incisent Technologies/First Look reception, at the Wynn-Penske Ferrari Maserati store in the lobby of Wynn’s Hotel Casino, was my favorite – lets face it, lots of the events had top shelf drinks and outstanding food, but eating, drinking and mingling around those $300k + cars did it for me this year…

Close runners up included the Resource Automotive reception in the main ball room of Caesar’s Palace, replete again with working bars carved entirely out of ice (and a few standard ones as well), at least a dozen or so food kiosks, and great band; and the Jaguar Land Rover party always takes top honors for cool sophistication, this year held at Mix at the top of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay.

Finally, honorable should probably go to the DealerTrack party at Studio 54 at MGM. While it lost a few points for having pre-defined bottled drinks served in plastic cups (I think this may have been the only NADA party I have ever been to where I had to pay for my scotch), the venue, music, and crowd pleasing dancers where lively and provoked quite a reaction from the guests towards the end of the night.

So that’s it, the start of another year, and the end of this year’s NADA – this is such a good show, it’s a shame we have to wait another whole year for the next one

Next Year, San Francisco

I’m looking forward to next year’s NADA event (I may have my voice back by then), February 9-12, in San Francisco.

John,

Thank you for the mention in your blog post and great narrative on the happenings at NADA 2007!

Jody DeVere
President
AskPatty.com, Inc.

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