Written By: Ben Koller

This was my first time attending NADA and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. If you’ve never been, but are considering going next year, then I would absolutely encourage you to go.

Initially, I was shocked by the size and scale of the event. Of course, I knew NADA was an extremely large event, but it’s hard to conceptual just how large until you’re there.

Shortly after I arrived, I ran into Russell Grant and his son Trevor. Russell is a close friend of ours and has been in the industry for a number of years. He has a wealth of automotive retail experience with a deep and far-reaching network. This makes him well suited to serve as a dealership consultant, which he does for a number of dealers across the country including a client of ours - the Haselwood Auto Group in Bremerton, WA. Russell’s son, Trevor, runs EagleEye, offering exceptional aerial drone footage and 360° virtual showroom tours as a certified photographer for Google.

When I asked Russel what all was on his agenda at NADA, he mentioned platforms enabling dealerships to offer its customers subscription services. Two providers in this space are Clutch Technologies and FlexDrive. These software platforms help a dealership offer its customers a subscription (or access) to drive any number of new vehicles at the dealership. So, if your customers are headed to Home Depot, they’ll take your truck. When they are headed on a ski trip, they’ll take a 4WD SUV. When headed on a long road trip, they’ll take your most fuel-efficient car. You get the idea. It’s easy to see how this value proposition would be attractive to many customers. For the dealership, it offers the ability to move new vehicles to the subscription fleet when sales objectives need to be met and it offers a supply of pre-owned vehicles when cars are ready to be moved out of the fleet. And, it can offer great publicity. Jeff Wyler Automotive Family has received local (and soon will have national) news attention because of this subscription offering.

Perhaps, the most gratifying part of NADA came on the first day when they announced the Time Dealer of the Year Award. There were 40 or so nominees from across the country who are all doing amazing acts of kindness and charity within their local communities and across the country. It reminded me of all the charitable contributions our own dealer clients do year in and year out, but often goes unknown to customers (and sometimes even their own employees). Failing to incorporate a dealership’s giving, especially if it’s part of the store’s core values, is a real travesty. In fact, we recently just recorded a Dynamic Solutions covering this exact topic with a great email marketing tip we first implemented for our parent company, Acton Toyota of Littleton.

Speaking of Acton Toyota of Littleton, the dealership has just started using TradeRev with initial success. I did visit TradeRev’s exhibit while at NADA as I know the acquisition/sourcing and selling of pre-owned vehicles has becoming increasingly difficult for dealers. TradeRev is, per the company, “a revolutionary vehicle appraisal and auctioning system designed to be as mobile as your business needs. It gives Sellers the power to launch live, one-hour, real-time auctions from the palm of their hands. Buyers can also enjoy full end-to-end service from anywhere.”

And, on the topic of vehicles, I was very impressed with Car360. Car360 enables dealers with just a smartphone or tablet to create truly 360° exterior and interior photography with interactive hotspots for detailed information that can be presented as text, imagery, or even video. So, imagine a hotspot on the tire and wheels of a vehicle that when clicked on by the car shopper opens a new window that notes your service RO of 4 brand new tires and brakes. Or, a hotspot on the hood that when clicked opens a window with the vehicles extended powertrain warranty coverage. The possibilities are endless and its ability to help you better merchandize your inventory, particularly your pre-owned vehicles, is really exciting. We’re already received a demo for Acton Toyota and will be seriously considering it in the very near future.

Another product to better promote vehicles is Cartender owned and run by Collin Davis. Cartender is a product that Acton Toyota has been using for a number of months now. The product gives us access to very high-quality video of our new Toyota models. We use that video on our website to accompany our vehicle specials. We find video to be much more engaging than static video alone. Not to mention the benefits of incorporating video within email to improve click-through rates and overall engagement.

A gentleman who should need no introduction is our good friend, David Kain. I had the good fortune of chatting with David on several occasions at NADA. Kain Auto is the premier automotive retail consultancy for dealerships offering expert training in automotive internet sales and BDC operations. Their services include internet sales training, BDC operations development, digital marketing consulting, social media and reputation management guidance.

Justin will be presenting with David and Todd Smith at Digital Dealer next week. If you’re going, be sure to attend the session. Their presentation is entitled “Executive Leadership for Multi-Generational Dealerships - How to Be an Effective Communicator and Create a High-Touch, High-Performing Dealership.”

Speaking of leadership, I made it a point to listen to Jared Hamilton of DrivingSales as he was having a Q&A session with NADALive. The session surrounded Jared’s believes on how best to hire, train, promote, and grow individuals within your organization. He shared that at his own store, it’s several months before a newly hired salesperson can actually start talking to customers. So often, we dealers are quick to put an inexperienced salesperson, who just started within our organization (and possibly our industry), in front of our customers. How many of those people don’t buy as a result of the sales rep’s inexperience, but otherwise would have? To think about the potential loss in not only sales revenue, but future service business should be troublesome.

Another gentleman who continues to make a real name for himself within our space is Dave Cantin. Dave owns two businesses within automotive, Dave Cantin Group (DCG) and Cantin Automotive Insider (CAI). With over 20 years of industry expertise, DCG is a full service automotive M&A firm with access to cutting edge knowledge and resources. CAI is a new automotive news with the ultimate goal to support dealers, vendors and manufacturers with unique resources and strategies to remain on the cutting edge of the industry.

While at NADA, I spent time visiting with several of the OEMs who were exhibiting. And, while I’m a Toyota guy through and through, I was very impressed with Ford and Lincoln. The space was exceptionally well-designed and welcoming. Moreover, the reps were very helpful and informative. One newer product they were promoting within their Service area was FordPass SmartLink. I was/am a big fan of the product and if I were to own a Ford I’d absolutely want it for my vehicle. The product does so much including turning your car into a mobile WiFi hotspot, alert notifications regarding vehicle issues, scheduled maintenance, and more, and so much more. At DB, we plan to build connect promoting FordPass SmartLink on our Ford clients’ website and elsewhere within their digital marketing (should they want it, of course).

Being the Toyota fanboy that I am, I did make my way over to Toyota’s exhibit. While there, I signed a number of key individual at Acton Toyota up to receive more information surrounding Hire Our Heroes which Toyota was promoting due to their partnership with the program. This program connects transitioning Veterans to their next careers, with job resources, job training, interview process assistance, networking, veteran mentors, volunteers and sponsors. We’ve been executing on a number of initiatives, both online and in-store, for Acton Toyota as it has made recognizing, supporting, and recruiting veterans a priority.

I could continue writing about my time and NADA and the other products, services, and people I met with, but I’ll spare you from having to read more of my poorly constructed prose.

If you wish to chat more about my time at NADA or any of the people or products included in this recap, please do not hesitate to reach out. I’d welcome any and all conversations. Thank you!