LAS VEGAS, NV— The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) held their yearly convention from Feb. 1-4 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The trade organization representing nearly 16,500 franchised new car and truck dealerships presented four days of programs, meeting and new products that featured guest speakers such as Jon Taffer, Danica Patrick and Kurt Warner as well as industry leaders to talk about the subjects most concerning dealers and suppliers across the U.S.
Here are our takeaways from the 96 hours in Sin City before Super Bowl week kicked into gear.
During a period where franchised dealers face pressures at seemingly every turn, NADA outgoing chairman Geoffrey Pohanka told those assembled keeping the consumer happy is the most important job as well as the continued partnership with manufacturers.
“It is my experience, that the best results for both is when there is a successful working relationship between dealers and manufacturers,” said Pohanka from NADA’s main stage to those in attendance on Friday.
The third-generation dealer and the chairman of the Pohanka Automotive Group in Capitol Heights, MD, pointed to the importance of the NADA Guiding Principles on Evolving Business Models and the Dealer Franchise System to help dealers and OEMs improve the customer experience.
“Dealers are resilient, and I am confident we will adapt to whatever comes our way,” added Pohanka. “We have faced obstacles before and have overcome them.”
Bar Rescue’s Taffer then spoke, noting salespeople need to employ the same mindset on how the Disney parks treat their customers.
“You guys are in the business of reactions. When you have two Ford dealers in the same city, the one who creates the greatest reactions is going to outsell the guy who doesn’t,” Taffer said. “It is why Walt Disney World does twice the business of Universal Studio.”
Tap the Brakes on EVs
The hot button issue of electrical vehicles sales mandates was addressed at length by Pohanka, saying is he “very concerned about the too-rapid transition to electrification” by the U.S. government’s emission regulations, which aim to speed up the mass-market adoption of electric vehicles.
“It is unfortunate that our government appears to be on the road to banning the sale of gasoline powered cars and without consideration of the lack of domestic supply of critical minerals, the lack of charging infrastructure, and an inadequate electrical infrastructure,” he stated.
Biden Administration Response
Those were not sentiments shared by a Biden Administration official who appeared on the Live Stage right after Pohanka’s address.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stressed that the government was not looking to ban gas-powered cars. And she address the concerns that are keeping drivers from purchasing vehicles, most notably price, range anxiety and issues during cold weather, are ones that need to be met with more education.
“But we are not tapping the brakes,” said Granholm, referencing the calls by dealers for President Joe Biden to reconsider the EPA’s proposed limits on vehicle tailpipe pollution starting in 2027.
The former governor of Michigan offered that by the end of this year, infrastructure projects backed by federal dollars are in the pipeline that will help ease concerns of car buyers.
“This is a question of personal choice…we are not jamming EV’s down on anybody,” Granholm said, noting EV sales continue to grow year-over-year. “The bottom line is I think this is moving to electrification.”
AI to the Rescue
The NADA convention floor was jam packed with new products featuring artificial intelligence.
Among the companies showing their new innovations were:
- Cox Automotive announced that its VinSolutions has become a data integration partner in FordDirect’s CRM Choice program and the enhancement of the Dealertrack Compliance solution through the addition of a new Synthetic ID fraud indicator, which will help protect dealers against fraudulent transactions earlier in the F&I process.
- Gubagoo unveiled a new prototype customer data platform (CDP) to NADA 2024, that builds on Reynolds Retail Management System to normalize and structure data from disparate sources and unify and cleanse it for a clear view of every customer. Users will get a single view of every customer, vehicle, and transaction, all after the records are deduplicated, and cleansed. Records from the same household are brought together and connected, making using the data more efficient and productive.
- Lotlinx is offering two new products: Sentinel, which protects dealers by forecasting risks and implementing targeted corrective actions by using uses the most advanced machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and data mining technologies to monitor a massive proprietary data set of real-time market factors that drive VIN outcomes.
- The other product showcased was the VIN Management Platform (VMP) powered by Lexaca, the company’s new AI-assisted chatbot featuring the industry’s largest dealer inventory dataset. Lexaca offers comprehensive, market and competitive data for every vehicle on a dealer’s lot, enabling dealerships to easily inform strategy and decision making for each VIN or vehicle segment (ex: condition, body style, model).
- automotiveMastermind and Morgan Automotive Group have formed a strategic partnership where Mastermind’s technology and data enrichment and Polk Automotive Solutions’ data services from S&P Global Mobility will be integrated into the operations at Morgan’s 73 dealerships throughout Florida. Mastermind harnesses the power of predictive analytics to anticipate customer preferences, enabling dealers to redefine automotive retail sales by seamlessly blending data and intelligence with personalized insights. Through this new partnership, Mastermind and Polk Automotive Solutions will serve as a data quality, enrichment and business intelligence resource for Morgan. Combining the power of Mastermind and Polk Automotive Solutions offerings will enable Morgan to access cleaner customer data and predictive analytics from within their Customer Data Platform (CDP) to enhance their operational systems, marketing strategies and improve the consumer experience at all Morgan dealerships.
- RouteOne On-Demand technology suite empowers RouteOne’s integrated partners to craft their own distinctive solutions and value propositions. Services include credit submission, decision retrieval, customer quote, payoff quote, voluntary protection product presentation, auto-eContracting, document exchange, compliance, etc. Because RouteOne is the only provider in the industry that owns our own credit aggregation portal, eContracting system, and menu (for voluntary protection product presentation), we are uniquely positioned to offer a full F&I experience to customers looking for these tools.
After EV sales, worries about how the U.S. economy is doing and that affect on car sales are at the top of the list for dealers as interest rates remain high. And one attendee noted dealerships, from the smallest dealers to those with 25 rooftops, are considering cutbacks this year more then in previous years.
Another issue: pay disparity between men and woman. The Automotive News published a story Saturday focusing on men making an average of $74,300 more than woman in the industry.
And while some are considering cutbacks, a tighter job market has resulted in it being harder for dealership owners to find as well as retain good employees.
Meeting Gary Gilchrist, The New Boss
In his first address as chairman, Gary Gilchrist identified the challenges the auto retail industry faces and outlined how he will tackle them as 2024 chairman on Feb. 3, calling on the support of NADA members.
“I know how dealers think: I know we will always have your passion!” said Gilchrist, president of Gilchrist Chevrolet Buick GMC, Inc. in Tacoma, Wash. “But it’s your intent that we desperately need. You have a chance, frankly, to determine the future of this industry like few before you.”
After the conflict with the Biden Administration on EV’s, Gilchrist identified protecting the franchise system and the consumer experience as the next priorities of NADA leadership. He decried the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Vehicle Shopping Rule, which he said would add time, paperwork and confusion to the vehicle-purchasing process.
“Our efforts made a difference,” Gilchrist said, in reference to FTC staying the implementation date of its own rule after NADA’s legal challenge. “On this issue, passion was easy, let me tell you. But even more important was our intent.”