NADA Dispatch 2: It Ain’t So Easy In The Big Easy

January 29, 2017

There’s a good vibe here in New Orleans.

If it were Las Vegas, you might say dealers are doubling down on their technology investments.

There are two kinds of dealers who visit the vAuto and Stockwave booths. Those who are looking for a better way, and current customers asking us to help them sharpen their game plans.

You might say there’s a thirst for more here in the Big Easy. And I’m struck by the number of dealers who are really thirsty.

I’m not one for predictions. But I have a sense that in the next decade, the car business won’t be regarded as an employment option of last resort. I lost count of the number of dealers who are making their people a higher priority.

Of course, the people-first dealers are taking a long view. It’s better to address this sticky, in-store culture stuff now, while times are relatively good, than before it’s too late to make a difference.

There’s also a marked number of dealers who say they’ve had enough. More than one dealer surprised me by saying they’re done. Their reasons for exiting the business all make perfect sense, particularly given the investments their factory partners have put in front of them. Still, I suspect a few wouldn’t be bailing out if the road ahead didn’t seem so complex or expensive.

Meanwhile, several dealers relayed that they’ll be opening stores as part of factory plans to add more dealerships to garner market share. The dealers are buoyant about their new opportunities, even amid signs that it’ll be a tougher new vehicle market in the months ahead. I recognize that factory decisions to add or take away dealerships are often years in the making. I have to wonder, though, how well the market will meet planning projections for sales and the dealers’ returns on investment.

I’m also finding myself in agreement with dealers who think 2017 is the year for digital retailing to become a transactional reality. The dealers are ready. They’re signing contracts to get it done at their dealerships. It’s exciting to see dealers evolving to deliver the experiences customers increasingly want when they purchase a vehicle—particularly as companies like Lynk & CO and Wal-Mart believe they offer a better way.

All in all, it was a good day on the NADA floor. I’m excited to see what the final day will bring.