Conventional Wisdom

The National Automobile Dealers Association puts on an annual convention that ranks among the top expositions in the industrial world. It serves various purposes. Not only does the annual NADA Convention show the strength of dealers and automotive retailing in America, it's also a fountain of knowledge for all who attend. In fact, many dealers consistently enroll key managers and technicians in convention

The National Automobile Dealers Association puts on an annual convention that ranks among the top expositions in the industrial world. It serves various purposes.

Not only does the annual NADA Convention show the strength of dealers and automotive retailing in America, it's also a fountain of knowledge for all who attend.

In fact, many dealers consistently enroll key managers and technicians in convention workshops where candid and experiential information is doled out by dealers who've “been there”!

Some workshops are so well attended, you might not get a seat if you arrive late.

The growth of the NADA Convention is reflected in the following 10-year comparisons — from Terry O'Neil Collins of the NADA Convention staff — of attendees, exhibitors, exposition space and workshop sessions:

  • Attendees have grown from 10,053 in 1992 to 17,938 in 2002

  • Workshop sessions grew from 108 in 1993 to 166 in 2002.

  • Exhibitors numbering 396 occupied 185,287 square feet of exhibit space in 1993.

  • In 2002, there were 603 exhibitors utilizing 321,900 sq. feet

During my tenure as an NADA director from Massachusetts in the 1970s, it was my good fortune to serve as NADA convention chairman for two terms.

That gave me an increased awareness of the convention's value to the dealers of America.

For example, I have had a personal interest in the succession process in family owned and operated dealerships.

It has often been difficult for active and involved dealer principals to convey an attractive, professional picture of a dealership operation to their children.

Often, there is limited opportunity to represent the dealer's professional activities beyond arguing with factory reps, disgruntled customers and consumer activists.

In fact, an aspiring successor is exposed to everything negative about his chosen career.

Our family dealership is in a small town and my own kids were subjected to the slings and barbs from disgruntled customers. There were incidents when these members of our family would actually support negative comments in our community about new car dealers.

Once, my wife left the beauty shop in tears after overhearing someone disparage the dealership's “terrible service department.”

Although the family dealership would remain in the family, there was minimal excitement attached to becoming a second-generation new-car dealer.

But that suddenly changed for the better.

The dramatic positive change in my family's attitude toward automotive retailing — and family members' future involvement in it — occurred when we all attended an NADA convention.

We observed the range and scope of the 20,000 attendees, from dealers to manufacturers, from the media to exhibitors of all sorts of products and services for dealers. We heard quality workshop presenters. We saw nationally known figures, motivational speakers and spiritual leaders address general sessions attended by thousands.

We saw just how important dealers are and the NADA convention is.

Attending the annual convention is an enriching experience for anyone involved in the new vehicle retailing business.

An added bonus is its positive impressions on successor candidates as well as the rest of the family who get to know more about what it is you do when you go to work.

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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