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Training in the dealership: Spotlight on NADA Resources

If dealers were suddenly training sports teams, what would practices be like? For Dan Lucha, Sr., general sales manager of Reno Mazda Kia in Nevada, his players would constantly regroup and huddle. “We have meetings five days a week,” says Lucha, “There is constant communication and repetition.” Troy Campise, general sales manager of Lakeside Toyota in Metairie, La. would hone in on the details. Campise’s sales team focuses on each step of the sale, “How to say hello to someone, that it’s not polite to extend your hand to a woman, or to call a customer by their first name [until they give you permission].”
Just as each dealer crafts their own style of training, they must draw from solid sources of support. In this pre-NADA issue it is only fitting to recognize a singular, multilayered resource: the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), headquartered in MacLean, Va.

What does NADA have to offer? “We’ve used NADA for everything,” says Neal Slaten, president of Tipton Ford, Inc. of Nacogdoches, Texas, “from buying their videos for such things as front-end training, to sales training…[to their] management guides on everything from how to handle and negotiate your new computer contracts, to legislative updates, to managing your used car department.” Year-round, NADA provides dealer counsel and training in the form of, a Dealer Candidate Academy, online Web chats, training videos and tapes, a Salesperson Training and Certification Program, publications, and the annual NADA Convention and Exposition.

Jean Beres, director of management education at NADA, said, “We host seminars across the country on various topics for a three-and-a-half day period of time.” At the seminar, participants are in constant contact with each other. They have interactive exercises during the class session, and at the end of the day, they normally socialize together and talk business. Beres’ department also puts out 10 new publications per year directed at specific dealer departments, such as the latest federal and legal issues, customer relations management, profitability in parts and service, etc.

Slaten claims, “We’ve always believed that NADA is the voice of the dealer.” Nick Demas, general manager at Discover Infiniti in San Diego, Calif., said, “NADA brings credibility and professionalism to the [dealership] environment.” With all of that being said, what two training options stand out? The Dealer Candidate Academy and Annual NADA Convention and Exposition


NADA headquarters is home to an educational branch created for dealers who want to better understand their employees’ roles and help them perform at their peak. Launched in 1979, NADA’s Dealer Candidate Academy (DCA) has graduated roughly 5,000 students on two tracks: 1) a successor track for relatives of existing owners who are pursuing ownership or management of the dealership and 2) a general manager track.

Allan Jones, director of DCA, explained, “Students come to NADA headquarters in MacLean, Va. for one week every other month, and each week focuses on a different aspect of the dealership.” Over the course of a year, students familiarize themselves with financial management, parts dealership, service, new and used car sales, and overall dealership management. For the General Manager track, “We send students out to several local dealerships and have them do a two-day analysis of all the major departments of the dealerships,” said Jones.

“I am so much an advocate of progress through education,” states Michelle Thomas, a DCA graduate and assistant general manager of Saturn of Fort Myers/Naples, Fla. The focused classes followed by weeks of hands-on application turns the dealership learning curve into a streamlined slope. “It’s a tremendous way to learn,” says Thomas. “You go through each and every profit center…when you go back [to your dealership] you can apply everything they were talking about.”

Slaten credits DCA for refreshing his management perspective. He said, “The biggest thing I got out of DCA was the ability to read and understand my financial statement. I used my financial statement, along with the measurements that NADA uses annually, and compared the two…to find the areas in my store that were doing well or were missing profits.”

Jones added, “Probably half of what the students learn comes from networking with other people. They find they are not the only ones struggling with a particular problem.”


The NADA Convention and Exposition, is a one-stop exchange for training ideas. “I live for the Convention!” laughed Michelle Thomas. “When you are a student of the business,” she goes on, “you want to know what new ideas and products are out there. The convention is the one time a year in which all of that is brought to one place, under one roof. A lot of employees are either front end or back end. The training at the convention gives you the full scope of the entire dealership.”

Slaten approaches the convention as an idea pool for specific needs: “I usually go out to the convention with a shopping list,” he says. “For instance, two years ago [in 2004], my plan was to visit all the spray liner booths. Last year, I spent my time with the business development companies. It’s the single best place to find everything you need.”

For the Convention Workshops, “We have the luxury of a large pool of speakers to pick from,” says Beres. “We review [and pick] the most important topics for dealers today.” Topics in 2006 covered effective employee evaluations, improving sales results and new federal laws and regulations. Workshops generally run for 60 minutes, which includes time for dealer questions and input afterwards. In addition, workshops run on specialized tracks (Human Resource Management, Technology, etc.), so that employees can gain training and insight specific to their department. “We often send multiple department managers every year, and our dealer and general managers always attend,” shares Monica Peck of Hare Auto Group/Hare Chevrolet in Noblesville, Ind., “We spend the months following the convention discussing and implementing ideas and knowledge gained.” Dealers may also purchase tapes or podcasts (for iPod and MP3 users) of any workshops they missed.

Stephen Pitt, executive director of meetings for the NADA Convention Department, said the convention’s keynote speakers selections are “a group decision, and the dealers [themselves] are involved in the process.” After putting together a list of speakers, the convention committee receives feedback from the NADA board, executive director and chairman to select each speaker. In 2006, Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW U. S. Holding Corporation, spoke at the convention’s opening general session. Frank Abagnale shared his life story – which has since become a best-selling book and film, Catch Me if You Can – and how to apply his life lessons in the business world. General Colin Powell also addressed the 2006 convention and drew on his vast experience – on the battlefield, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State – to share strategies for leadership during times of change and crises.

NADA’s Convention offered a variety of resources and perspectives, no matter what your training style. “You’ve got to be aggressive in this business,” says Slaten. “It would be tough to do it without NADA.”

Both options, the Academy and the Convention, offer a wealth of information for dealers at all levels. For more information regarding either the Dealer Candidate Academy or the annual NADA convention, go to

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