More than 20,000 men and women in the auto and allied industries are expected to converge on Orlando, Fla., Feb. 8-11 for the 96th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention and Expo. They’ll be looking to continue the momentum generated in 2012, the best year for new-car sales in America since 2007.
As last year drew to a close, Paul Taylor, chief economist of the NADA, predicted 14.2 million new cars and light trucks would be retailed or leased in 2012, up from 12.7 million units in 2011.
Mark Scarpelli, chairman of the NADA’s convention committee and president of Raymond Chevrolet/Kia in the Chicagoland area, believes there are even more signs of good times ahead.
“Low financing rates, an aging fleet of vehicles that need to be replaced and exciting, new vehicles headed to dealer showrooms are all positive factors for the auto industry,” Scarpelli said. “We’re building on the momentum established in 2012. New-car sales are leading a steady economic recovery in the [United States].”
The Great Recession that hit the nation and the world in 2007 saw the number of new cars sold in America drop to 10.4 million in 2008, the lowest total since the late 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The continued rebound in 2012 has been a silver lining in the slowly recovering U.S. economy, and it has many in the nation’s $609.4 billion new-car industry optimistic about the new year. “In fact, the theme of the 2013 NADA Convention is ‘Momentum,’” said Scarpelli, who will be completing his first year as a board member for the NADA. “To keep the sales momentum going into 2013, the NADA Convention offers new workshops for dealers and their managers to learn ways to improve their business operations. [They can also] attend franchise meetings with automaker executives and shop the expo floors with hundreds of companies offering dealerships innovative products and services.”
Charles Cyrill, director of public relations for the NADA, said the exposition floor is sold out. More than 500 vendors are set to ply their latest and tried- and-true wares to both new- and used-car dealers in attendance at the Orange County Convention Center. The products and services on display are designed for all departments of the dealership, from sales and F&I to parts and service.
The four-day NADA conference, held in conjunction with the American Truck Dealers (ATD) Convention and Expo, represents the most significant annual gathering of automotive industry executives, dealers, managers, staff and exhibitors. Association membership accounts for 90-plus percent of the nation’s more than 17,500 new-car dealerships and their nearly one million employees, said Cyrill, making the workshops and training being offered to attendees a critical influence on the new-vehicle industry’s impact on America’s retail sales.
Last year, according to the NADA figures, the auto industry accounted for approximately 14.5 percent of overall domestic retail sales, and few places rely on new-car sales more than the convention’s host state. In fact, new-vehicle sales account for 16.5 percent of collective retail sales in the Sunshine State, second only to Oklahoma’s 16.7 percent.
For 2013, there are 28 new instructors among the experts and professionals from across the auto industry presenting 61 new workshops sponsored by NADA University. “Workshops are one of the most important and eagerly anticipated features of the NADA-ATD convention,” said Marjorie Levin, senior Resource Toolbox manager for NADA University. “[We] pulled out all the stops to create a particularly engaging workshop program.” Levin said one of the most popular workshops is sure to be the Disney workshop. “Our dealers are excited to learn how Disney’s legendary attention to even the smallest detail and its hallmark appreciation of the customer can be translated to their dealerships.”
Orlando, often referred to as the Theme Park Capital of the World, is home to numerous such parks, including Walt Disney World, which hosts 25 million visitors every year and employs more people than any other workplace in the world. So if lessons are to be taught in private-sector customer service and employee satisfaction, perhaps no entity is more qualified than Walt Disney Co.
Altogether, there are seven education tracks:
• Executive Leadership
• Internet Solutions
• Legal and Regulatory
• Managing Your Resources
• Parts and Accessories
• Sales, Leasing and Finance
• Service and Body Shop
NADA University will also offer a workshop on its recently released — and downloadable — “2012 Dealership Workforce Study” as well as four workshop sessions on healthcare reform. “Healthcare reform is on everyone’s minds, and we are proud to present experts who can not only explain the topic, but also discuss the impact on dealerships and the implications of the choice dealers will have to make,” Levin said, referring to the new healthcare mandates under President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most major provi- sions of which will be phased in by January 2014.
Levin expects significant interest in the workforce study, a comprehensive dealer-centric report that conveys to franchise owners how to compete in regional economies and how to keep and attract employees. That includes employees who belong to the Millennial Generation, or Generation Y, who were born between the late 1970s and early 2000s.
“The Gen Y theme is explored throughout the workshop program with sessions on how this generation shops, how to market and sell to them, how to engage them and how to measure if your marketing is reaching them,” Levin said.
The workshops will also pull open the curtains to an issue of growing concern to dealers perhaps overwhelmed by exploding technology. “Of course, the Internet and all its many channels — including social media — are thoroughly examined,” Levin said.
The sessions also delve into areas of dealership operations, including a program on parts and special attention to the controller and F&I department. “Plus, we have an important session on hot tax topics and can’t- miss federal regulatory updates for both car and truck dealers — along with our ever-popular 20 Group Best Ideas session,” Levin adds.
Headlining the speakers at the convention will be former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2006-’11), cabinet-level military advisor to President Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush.
He also is the only man asked to remain in that position by a newly elected president. Gates will discuss global politics and American foreign policy, and how it affects the auto industry.
Another industry outsider, former NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, will serve as an inspirational speaker. Kelly is the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman from Arizona who is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the head that she sustained two years ago in a mass shooting. He was also the commander of the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavour, the penultimate mis- sion of NASA’s fleet of reusable space vehicles.
From inside the automotive space, keynote speakers will include John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai’s U.S. operations. Twelve-year NADA board member and current Chairman Bill Underriner, president and owner of Underriner Motors in Billings, Mont., and incoming Chairman David Westcott will also address the conference. Westcott, an NADA board member since 2002, is the owner of Westcott Automo- tive in Burlington, N.C.
Early registration closed Jan. 31, but late registration continues through the convention. To help avoid scheduling conflicts, dealers and their managers are encouraged to utilize “myNADA- planner,” a free and easy-to-use online planning, scheduling and networking tool designed to help attendees maximize their time.
“One of the key features of the myNADAplanner system is connecting buyers and sellers on the expo floor and providing an advance look at the exhibitor list,” said convention Chairman Scarpelli. The convention’s mobile app allows attendees to create a schedule, download workshop presentations and handouts, view speaker bios, navigate the convention center and shop the expo floor. To download the mobile app, search for “NADA 2013” in the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace.
NADA members will need their NADA Company Membership Number, which is located on their dues invoice, to register and secure housing. If you do not know your NADA Company Membership Number, contact the NADA customer service line at 1-(800)-557-6232.