Painted above the locker room door as you entered my high school gym were the words, “Only the strong survive.” As a freshman in high school who had never played tackle football, it sort of intimidated me. I knew in order to play I was going to have to work out hard and experience “hell week” where the coaches would run us to death, make us hit, tackle, etc. But I didn’t realize ahead of time how truly difficult it was going to be.
The thought of being a high school football player (like my mentor, Al Bundy) was definitely something that sounded appealing. But little did I realize it would take a large amount of sacrifice, diligence and hard work to not only make the team, but to be good at the sport.
When it comes to the car business, only the strong survive. And over the last three years this has become more evident than ever. The dealers and agents I talked to at NADA were the ones who have been able to weather the storm. They have made it through one of the toughest patches in our nation’s history and have emerged from the rubble to find new methods of increasing their business.
Now the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not we are through the storm yet. Is the worst behind us, and are we on the road to recovery? The general consensus among many of the attendees at NADA is that we are.
According to Charles Cyrill, Director of Public Relations for NADA, the total attendance at the 2011 convention was 18,028 compared to 15,171 at the 2010 convention in Orlando, Fla. Additionally, NADA is reporting that statistics are indicating an increase in vehicle sales for 2011. It appears there is a shortage of used cars and also a lot of pent-up demand from those who have put off purchasing another vehicle due to the economy. Signs seem to be pointing toward a recovery in the automobile industry.
From an exhibitor standpoint, it seems that many companies are moving forward with new ideas and technology that will revolutionize the way dealerships do business. I bought an iPad right after Christmas and have been blown away by what it can do. I was further amazed at the applications that are currently being developed. Though many people at the dealership are “set in their ways,” there are a number of tools on the way that are going to streamline processes and help sales people, F&I Managers and Service Writers sell more products and generally increase the bottom line. It might take time for this new technology to catch on, but make no mistake……it is coming!
For all of you agents who have caught on to this technology, good for you. Learn it. Use it. Show your dealer partners how these new tools create an incredible value. Now more than ever you need to increase your value to your dealer partners. Many dealerships are starting to contact Providers directly for various costs associated with their products. It is imperative that you approach your dealer partners with strategies and new ideas that will make yourself invaluable. Dealers need to rely on you to be the one who shows them what is possible and explain how new technology will change the way they do business for the better.
As I walked the show floor at NADA, it became clear to me that embracing this new technology is what is going to separate the “survivor” dealers and agents from others. Those who are on the cutting edge and looking for new, efficient ways to do business will be the ones who lead this industry into the future. Why not be one of these leaders? At the Agent Summit in March we will provide education that will help you to this end.
All in all, I felt this NADA was good for both the attendees and the vendors. Everyone seemed to be positive as all indications point to a prosperous year. The experience reminded me of the hard working, entrepreneurial spirit that made this nation great. It is not in the calm sea where the captain shows what he is made of; it is in the middle of the storm when his true strength is demonstrated. For those reading this blog who have survived this Great Recession… my hat is off to you. Only the strong survive!