What I Learned at NADA 2019

January 28, 2019

Author — Mike Cavanaugh, Executive Vice President, MAX Digital

I love going out to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) conference each year. Why? Because I love to learn from and connect with all of the great minds in our industry. Whether it’s sitting in on one of the great sessions or simply connecting with someone in the exhibit hall. I always seem to have at least 5 good takeaways each year.

Here are my Top 5 from NADA 2019:

1) Dealers are not afraid of change.

The industry is changing fast, and many dealers have moved from denial to embracing the changing landscape ahead. A digital, transparent, and collaborative sales process was once met with resistance. Now, there are many options to help a dealer accomplish those goals in a variety of ways.

2) Dealers understand technology better than they ever have before.

Only a few years ago VDP, SRP, and API were acronyms not many people had heard of. Now dealers understand the importance of technology to their business and know what questions to ask to hold vendors accountable for better business decisions. Dealers are pushing vendors to integrate better with eachother to make their lives easier and businesses more efficient and effective. The true partners are working together for the common good of the dealer.

3) There are a lot of very similar “solutions” for dealers to choose from.

Whether you are evaluating a DMS, Website, CRM, inventory management tool, digital retailing software, (or car wash) you have options. There isn’t one solution in any of these categories that is right for every dealer, every time. Some dealers are “feature junkies” and want all of the bells and whistles even if they don’t use them. Some are very minimalist and price sensitive. Fortunately, there’s a solution for every dealer's needs. The best vendors in each space spend enough time asking questions and point dealers in the right direction, even if it’s not with them.

4) Start participating in subscriptions, ride sharing, and non-traditional models now.

In an early session on Friday, it was predicted that fleet sales would more than double by 2034 and retail sales would be down to a mere 8.7M. It may not be a very profitable profit center day one, and it may be a bit clunky now. However, in five, 10, 15 years from now you will look back and be glad you started now. If you don’t think that will come quickly just think 2004 is the same distance away as 2034 is now.

5) Less is more.

Fewer people involved in the sales process equals more profit and more satisfied customers. Smart dealers are leveraging technology to make the process more efficient. When technology is properly implemented, fewer managers are necessary to appraise vehicles, close desk deals, and complete the process in F&I. The key to immediate and long-term success here is implementing changes in the sales process one at a time. Trying to change everything at once can result in losing sales, losing customers, and losing employees. The investments in these changes are necessary to run a profitable business even in the near term.

I’m sure many attendees, dealers, and vendors had similar takeaways after the final NADA in San Fransisco. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Mike Cavanaugh, Executive Vice President

Mike Cavanaugh grew up working with his father at a dealership in Detroit, MI. He served in the United States Marine Corps, doing 2 tours in Iraq. After returning from Iraq Mike went back into the automotive industry working his way up from selling cars to managing dealerships in Metro Detroit. He spent 8 years working at one of the largest auto finance companies in the United States and served as the Chief Operating Officer of a 28 store dealership group with operations in 9 states. Currently Mike serves as the Executive Vice President at MAX Digital, a software company that provides inventory management, merchandising, and digital retail solutions to dealerships.