As the association announced Oliver North as keynote speaker for its annual event on Capitol Hill coming next month, the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association highlighted the final results from its national convention this past June.
And as they say, records are made to be broken.
For the fourth consecutive year, the NIADA/NABD Convention and Expo was attended by more people than any previous event in its long history.
According to a news release, the 73rd annual convention held June 17-20 at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas drew a record 2,154 attendees. That broke the mark set a year earlier when NIADA and the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers first joined forces for a combined event.
NIADA said the 2019 convention also was the seventh in a row with greater attendance than the previous year.
The results of NIADA’s post-convention survey indicate there might be another attendance record coming in 2020.
More than 98% of the dealers and 90% of all attendees surveyed said they would recommend the NIADA/NABD Convention and Expo to a friend, and more than 90% of dealers and attendees said they plan to engage with NIADA in the future.
Add to that the increase in the number of first-time attendees over last year and NIADA believes the chances of extending the record streak to five seem pretty good.
“My gosh, it’s amazing,” said first-time attendee Florence Salazar-Bruner of Firehouse Auto Sales in Haltom City, Texas. “The opportunities here … I’m a real student of the field I’m in, and just going around to the different booths and getting to know people and being able to become more educated about my business really helped me.”
Another first-timer, Amy Noone of DriveRight in York, Pa., agreed.
“Overall, a fabulous experience,” Noone said. “I learned so much about the industry and loved having the opportunity to talk with vendors in person and schedule follow-up appointments on my return to the dealership.”
Other records set included most education sessions and the largest expo hall in NIADA convention history.
The 125,000-square-foot Expo space was filled with more than 200 vendors and industry partners, allowing dealers to connect with providers serving every part of their business.
“You can find anything you want here,” said Gus Camacho of Camacho Auto Sales in Palmdale, Calif. “So if you’re looking for some marketing ideas or a credit card processor, or maybe if you’re looking for some capital for your business, this is the place.
“You’ve got them all right here in one spot — you can check them out and get all the information you need,” Camacho added.
As vAuto’s Joey Imparato pointed out, that possibility is to be expected from “the Super Bowl for all independents” and “a can’t-miss show.”
“We were busy from start to finish every day,” said Bill Neylan of Tax Refund Services Tax Max. “We got our money’s worth from meeting dealers and from partnering with other vendors.
“It’s my favorite show of the year. Everyone who is anyone in the automotive space is there. If you are a dealer who didn’t attend, you need to be there,” Neylan went on to say.
The 65 dealer training sessions included five educational tracks — retail, buy-here, pay-here, certified pre-owned, digital marketing and legal and compliance — with topics spanning all aspects of dealership operations, management, leadership, human resources, service, cybersecurity, finance and accounting, tax law, technology and more.
In a high-energy keynote address, legendary business executive Sarah Robb O’Hagan provided insights into business and marketing and urged dealers to take themselves and their dealerships to the next level by going “extreme.”
And Dave Anderson of LearnToLead talked to a packed ballroom about mastering the art of accountability.
Other popular speakers included ADESA’s Doug Hadden, vAuto’s Imparato, David Lincicum of the Federal Trade Commission, Neil Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Maggie Pugesek of C&M Coaching, TransUnion’s Mike Mondelli, Carvana’s Dan Gill, TrueCar’s Kerri Wise and Don Jasensky of Automotive Personnel.
NABD’s Ken Shilson and Ingram Walters and NIADA’s Steve Jordan, Shaun Petersen, Chuck Bonanno, David Brotherton, Mark Dubois and Justin Osburn also prominently were featured.
“The response was fantastic … very interactive,” Hadden said of his session about getting vehicle ready to sell faster. “That’s what I love about NIADA and this event. Everybody helps everybody.
“I might have been leading the session, but they all contributed as well — ‘I do this,’ ‘I do that,’ ‘How do you do this?’ — and everybody took at least one thing away that they’re going to take back to their store and be able to sell more cars and make more money,” Hadden went on to say.
The special sessions included the Finance Fair, which provided dealers an opportunity to meet one-on-one with finance companies to discuss their specific issues and situations; Ask the Counselors, a panel of attorneys who answered dealers’ legal questions; and the dealer-to-dealer series, which featured successful operators Ingram Walters, Luke Godwin, Marshall Zoerner and Sherman Barnett discussing store issues and lessons learned during their careers.
The convention’s awards ceremonies and special events included a new first-timers reception during which first-time attendees received tips on how to get the most of their convention experience, as well as the welcome reception, a concert by country music star Trace Adkins, the dealer luncheon, the National Leadership Awards Banquet and the National Quality Dealer Award ceremony, followed by the closing after party.
“If you’re in the industry, you have to be here,” Camacho said. “There’s no other convention that’s as big and has as much information as this one.
“I’ve been coming to these conventions for the past 15 years, and every time I go away with something that’s going to either make me money or save me money. There’s no reason for anyone not to come. It’s the best thing out there,” he went on to say.
NIADA is looking to continue its event momentum in September during its National Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
Beginning on Sept. 23, the three-day event includes not only a special appearance by North, but also updates from federal regulators, a special awards dinner on Capitol Hill as well as NIADA members meeting with more than 120 members of Congress and their staffs.
“NIADA members have for years laid the groundwork at past National Policy Conferences for major legislative victories including the striking the CFPB’s ill-advised arbitration rule, maintaining tax deductibility of interest expenses associated with floorplans, and the defeat of overbroad recall legislation,” Petersen said.
“These major victories would not have occurred without dealers coming to Washington and making your voice heard,” he went on to say.
The complete agenda and registration details are available at niada.com.