NADA Convention and Expo – A Time to Heal Wounds and Move Forward

Last year saw the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) working tirelessly to prevent the collapse of Chrysler and General Motors, salvaging wholesale and retail auto financing and lobbying for new legislation to offer arbitration rights to rejected new car dealers. More than 1,700 dealerships shut their doors last year due to the global financial crisis or having their franchises revoked in the aftermath of GM and Chrysler’s restructuring bankruptcies.

Now, the association turns its attention to the upcoming NADA Convention and Expo being held February 13-15 in Orlando, Florida. In attendance will be thousands of domestic new car and truck dealers as well as dealers from 29 foreign countries including Canada, Mexico, Britain, India, Russia and others.

Convention Chairman, Brian Hamilton said, “With all that’s happening in the auto industry, the NADA convention is a perfect time to assess the future of auto retailing and for dealers to meet face-to-face with their automaker representatives and their peers.”

Among the highlights scheduled for this year’s convention and expo will be the association’s launch of the NADA University. The new online destination will offer instructor-led, interactive training and consulting programs designed to meet the needs of auto dealers in the rapidly-changing, increasingly competitive marketplace. The NADA will offer training demos for interested dealers.

Keynote speakers will include last year’s chairman, John McEleney and acting chairman, Ed Tonkin. In an interview with Automotive News, Tonkin said the association’s top priority for 2010 is Staying close to the manufacturers. As manufacturers clamor to regain market share, I think we’ll see some new and unique incentives and promotions — some of which may create an uneven playing field for dealers.

Tonkin, 51, who serves as vice president and general counsel for the Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships in Portland, Oregon also said the association will focus on mending fences. He said, In some cases, we’re going to have to try to repair relations with the manufacturers, the obvious ones being Chrysler and General Motors. Everybody went through a rough patch, and there are some bruised feelings. We have a real opportunity to create a genuine partnership with these folks, and that’s critical.

Tonkin also said he’s focused on proving the association’s value to dealers now that the dust of the previous, tumultuous year is beginning to settle.

With regard to rejected GM and Chrysler dealers, Tonkin said, We need to tell our value story to our members. For political reasons we were unable to discuss openly the extensive involvement we had.

In some dealers’ eyes, he added, maybe NADA wasn’t as involved as they should have been. Well, that’s not true. We’re going to go out and make sure that people understand what NADA does.

Without the involvement of the NADA, Tonkin says, even more GM and Chrysler dealers would have lost their franchises. Chrysler’s [total rejected dealers] was going to be up near a thousand – maybe not that high. And General Motors, the first go-round was something around 1,500.

The actual number of dealers rejected by GM and Chrysler were 1,350 and 789 respectively. Of those, 1,573 are attempting to be reinstated through third party arbitration.

Other speakers will include president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Stefan Jacoby and oil tycoon and alternative energy advocate T. Boone Pickens. NADA chief economist Paul Taylor and senior director of editorial and data services, Jonathan Banks, will also provide analysis of industry trends as well as used vehicle pricing forecasts for the year ahead.

The economic impact of the convention on Central Florida’s economy is expected to exceed $30 million.

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