Last weekend more than 23,000 auto executives and solutions providers gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana for the 2017 NADA Conference and Expo, bringing dealers and vendors from across the country together and kicking off the celebrations for the trade association’s 100th anniversary.

With more than 68 workshops and the non-stop party of Bourbon Street, the event didn’t disappoint.

Once again NADA put on an amazing show, with keynotes from industry bigwigs Jeff Carlson, Mark Fields, Mark Scarpelli, and Keith Crain, as well as special guests, comedian Jim Gaffigan and world-class adaptive snowboarder Amy Purdy.

“It was a blast!” Chris Brokaw, General Manager for Van Andel & Flikkema in Grand Rapids, Michigan laughed.

While New Orleans is smaller than Vegas, it has the unique capacity to bring he entire expo under one roof, making it easy and convenient for dealers to explore and compare various products. The great thing about the New Orleans NADA event is that “the place has got enough room so the whole convention is inside of one big area.” Brokaw confirmed.

It also provided plenty of opportunities for dealers to get one-on-one support and information from vendors. “I like the fact that the event was smaller. I felt like I was able to connect with more people, that I was able to see more friendly faces.” Shannon Everhart, BDC expert and representative from Gravitational Marketing, remarked.

Overall, the event buzzed with energy. “The atmosphere was very enthusiastic. It seemed very positive, probably because the industry is on an upswing right now and you could feel the positivity in the room.” Everhart agreed.

Dealers and vendors alike agree that they were pleased with the location and the atmosphere. “New Orleans and Vegas are my two favorites. There’s just a lot of stuff to do, a lot of restaurants, a lot of nightlife afterwards. It’s a fun city.” Fred Grote, owner of Grote Automotive in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said. “New Orleans is a really good location. It draws a lot of people…it’s a unique place that a lot of people think is awesome. It’s fun.” Said National Sales Manager for ProMax Unlimited Corby Swick.

What’s The Buzz?

Throughout the expo there was a lot of talk about what’s next in the retail automotive industry. The conference was flooded with conversations about building digital presence and websites. “Everyone was looking at websites and talking about analytics,” Everhart noted. The future for dealerships is going to be “easy, remote access to data with the click of a button.” She continued.

Part of this data-driven focus likely has to do with a push to be more efficient. “If you look at NADA statistics the volume of cars sold is probably going to dip a little…we’re going to sell less cars in 2017 than 2016.” Swick forecasted. With projections like that, lots of dealers were looking for ways to work leaner. It’s important to streamline as many processes as possible to balance diminishing sales numbers and margins.

“Everybody I talked to was looking for solutions to be more efficient. That’s a great lead-in for us because we supply a lot of tools to help them be more efficient, spend less money and still get the same ROI that they were getting before, maybe even a little bit more.” Swick said.

But dealers aren’t only focused on improving efficiencies. Many attendees were also focused on generating more revenue from service this year. “Lots of dealers were focused on how to get their arms around the service business.” Everhart commented. From marketing aimed at increasing service appointments to equipment, NADA had this trend covered. “I got a lot of good ideas from the vendors that were there…I was looking for service equipment, and they had a good display with lots of options.” Grote explained.

The Wrap Up

After three exhilarating days, members of the automotive community returned home, but they took lots of great insights, tips and tricks with them. “The entire experience reinvigorated my thought process. I came back with a lot of ideas on how to improve digital marketing offerings for dealers. I’m definitely motivated.” Reflected Richard Bolandi, digital expert at Gravitational Marketing.

NADA will be back March 22-25, 2018 in Las Vegas. We can’t wait! We’ll see you there.