Tuesday, Jun. 13, 2006, 08:00 PM
LAS VEGAS (June 14, 2006) -- Hundreds of independent dealers, vendors and industry executives were on hand during last week's National Independent Automobile Dealers Association's Annual Convention and Expo in Las Vegas to see dealer Tracy Myers, of Winston-Salem, N.C., named the 2006 National Quality Dealer. Despite being the son of a dealership owner, Myers had to prove his talents and business skills in order to show his father he was capable of running the store. Myers was 15 years old when he began working in his father's detail shop. While attending college, Myers worked as a salesperson at a local dealership. Working hard to prove his worth, when Myers returned to his father's dealership after college, he moved up the ladder at the store, learning every aspect of the business. It wasn't until fairly recently that he purchased the dealership from his father. Now 35, Myers sold approximately 1,400 vehicles last year. His store features a Kid Zone, Auto Spa and Bargain Center for consumers on a tight budget. Myers said he does his best to create an atmosphere that is inviting and does everything he can to help his customers make informed decisions. As for community involvement, Myers is the founder and host of the "Cruise for Cancer" car show and fundraiser. Additionally, he is the primary sponsor of the Lewisville Kiwanis Dunkfest, which supports the local public library. He has also helped to raise funds for the Oxford North Carolinas Children's Home by sponsoring a golf tournament, and assisted Hurricane Katrina victims by sponsoring and assisting with the organization of a festival and concert to raise money. In a recent interview with AuSM, Myers said finding good inventory can be difficult, but a committed dealer can find what he needs. "As franchised dealerships have had a harder time maintaining profits on the new-car side, they've realized that they had to boost their used-car side," he explained. "So, any nice used vehicles coming onto their lots as people buy new, they're jumping on them, reconditioning them, selling them and enjoying those good profits. "At the same time, five to seven years ago in the auction lanes, if a car was out of its factory warranty, generally it was considered off limits for the new car guy because it had too much liability for him," Myers said. "So those cars usually went to us as independent dealers. They aren't any longer. In the lanes today, if you have 200 dealers there, half of them will be new car dealers, and they've come armed with unlimited checkbooks and keep their hands up during bidding because they've got to buy, too." Myers said this shift by franchised dealers has really hurt independent dealers. "But you know what? We just have to adjust accordingly," he commented. "We can't sit around moaning and groaning and complaining. My mom sometimes tells me, 'You should have been a doctor!' Well, this is the path we've chosen to take, and we have to live with it." For those who weren't able to attend the NIADA convention, the Quality Dealer Award was presented live on NIADA.TV. Accepting the award, Myers thanked his parents for encouraging him to always do his best. He also said thank you to his wife and two children, who have supported him through his endeavors. Other Honorees In other convention news, NIADA inducted Northwood University's Warren Mault into the Ring of Honor, awarded four regional scholarships, handed out three Crystal Eagles and named the State Executive of the Year. Starting with Mault, the executive director of resource development in Midland, Mich., he was honored for dedicating his career and resources to improving the image of the auto industry. Mault has been with Northwood University for more than 25 years, beginning as an assistant to the co-founder of the school. Today, he serves as the executive director of the Dealer Education Award and the Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award for the university. He also spent time serving as the coordinator of the NIADA National Quality Dealer committee and the NIADA Scholarship Award committee, which selects the quality dealer and scholarship recipients. As for the four students who received academic scholarships, in Region 1, Jacquelyn Lee Maynard took home the honor. She is the daughter of Robert Maynard, of Columbian Street Auto Sales in Weymouth, Mass. Maynard said she plans to attend Brown University. Moving on, in Region 2, Juan Enrique Flores received the scholarship. He is the son of Juan Flores Sr., of Benz Financial Services in Miami Beach, Fla. Flores said he plans to attend the University of Miami. As for Region 3, that scholarship went to Joshua James Pohlmann. He is grandson of Don and Carol Deepe, of 81 Automotive in Hebron, Neb. "It's wonderful to have this scholarship out there and available," Pohlmann told attendees. He was the only scholarship winner in attendance. After accepting the recognition, he received warm hugs from his family. Pohlmann said he plans to attend Doane College. In Region 4, Krystine Ann Haglin received the educational funds. She is the daughter of Dana Haglin, of Haglin Automotive in Boulder, Colo. Haglin said she plans to attend Northern Arizona University. Commenting on the lack of attendance by this year's scholarship winners, Mike Linn, NIADA's executive vice president and chief operating officer, asked the scholarship committee if they could make their decisions earlier next year, as Linn would like to send camera crews to the recipients hometowns to broadcast their achievements via NIADA.TV and be aware of their accomplishment soon enough to attend the convention. Continuing on, three NIADA members received Crystal Eagles, which are awarded to NIADA recruiters who sign up a minimum of 100 new members over a two-year period. Those recognized with this honor included Brad LeBlanc, of Guardian Warranty; Glen Reeves, of Reeves Insurance Agency; and Van Williamson, of Auto Finance. The final award of the event went to Larry Peters, executive director of the Florida Independent Automobile Dealers Association, who was named State Executive of the Year. Last year's recipient, Jim Robinson, of Miles City, Mont., presented the award, joking that Peters is a connoisseur of beer, who can keep a straight face while pulling someone's leg. "He is an exceptional executive, who has substantially advanced the goals of his organization," Robinson said. "He works in the spirit of cooperation with other executives. He also carries himself with dignity and has proven leadership skills." Responding to the honor, Peters said, "It's overwhelming." He said it has been a pleasure realizing the power of the NIADA and working with the board members to achieve the goals set forth. Panel Discussions and Presentations Panel discussions and presentations covering the gamut of topics from F&I to paperwork, management systems to staff training, inventory tips and more took center stage at this year's NIADA convention. "Due to offering more education, our attendance has really gone up," Linn explained. "Before I came on board in 1999, we offered very little education. I've changed the whole event so there are almost no committee meetings; it's all education." After several years of no keynote speech, David Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance and Insurance, was this year's keynoter. He discussed the latest issues and shared insight into his group's certified F&I professional designation. Also, Joe Lescota, chairman of the Automotive Marketing Department of Northwood University, was another highlight of the convention, as he headed up a session, in addition to teaching the Certified Master Dealer courses. Linn said this session was designed so all dealers could have a chance to hear his input on the CMD program, which was created through a partnership between the NIADA and Northwood University. Along with Robertson and Lescota, auto industry veterans F.J. "Woody" Miller and Peter Lukasiak, both of Aardvark Auto Resource Group, both led sessions. Miller, along with Bill Bledsoe, president of YouSpeak, served on a panel featuring tips and best practices in management and marketing. This discussion focused on teaching attendees how to turn inventory as quickly as possible while managing cost. The session was followed-up by a discussion on successfully using a Web site to build sales and cultivate relationships with customers. In another session, Lukasiak served as the moderator for industry experts such as Kevin Luring, representing ServNet and independent auctions; Don Elliot, of ADESA; Joe Davidavich, of Manheim; and Virgil Matczak, of Auction Broadcasting Co. These leading executives presented five reviews of free electronic and Internet tools, which were designed to allow dealers to identify, purchase and sell retail or wholesale vehicles faster for more profit. Moreover, Keith Whann, executive counsel for the NIADA, conducted a seminar on legal paperwork. Whann accepted actual paperwork from dealers and reviewed it, looking for possible legal and regulatory pitfalls. After his analysis of paperwork, Whann shared best practices dealers can enforce to give their paperwork more clarity and make it more binding. Another highlight of the event was Ken Shilson, founder of the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers, who shared industry trends, benchmarks and updates with a packed room of attendees. One of the trends he noted was that BHPH dealers are paying more for vehicles in 2005 than in 2004, which is cutting into their gross profit. "More and more dealers are dialing into the same types of vehicles," he said. "Many dealers had to travel farther to find vehicles. This led to a 2-percent jump in vehicle cost. The key to cutting personnel expenses is having better practices and implementing technology." He also noted that the race to the courthouse in the fourth quarter of last year, as the new bankruptcy law went into effect in October, has had and will most likely continue to have an impact on BHPH dealers. In 2004, the average down payment on a vehicle was $1,025, while it was $837 in 2005. Shilson also pointed out that dealers are spending more to recondition units, up to $726 in 2005 from $378 in 2004. Topping off the show was the various vendors in the exhibit hall, who showcased their products and answer questions from attendees. While Manheim, ADESA and more all had booths at the event, also in exhibit hall was AutoTradeCenter, who just recently launched ATC Open, a full-service online marketplace that offers all dealers, including independents, the opportunity to acquire wholesale vehicles cost efficiently.