NADA 2020 was just different.
If you have been to multiple automotive conferences before you likely know what I’m talking about. You could see it, you could feel it, there was just something that didn’t feel the same. There were 5 things that stood out to me this year that made me feel really good about the automotive industry and where it’s heading.
1.) Execution Over Innovation
In years past there were a lot of “cool” unproven ideas and technology being sold as an easy solution to “selling more cars” and “making more money.” We wandered the exhibit halls checking out what the hype was all about, got sucked in to trying out some things that we may or may not have been ready for and ultimately left feeling underwhelmed or disappointed with the results. But not this year. The “new kids on the block” of the last few years have refined their products, processes, and shift from cool tech to usable dealership tools.
2.) No More “Silver Bullet” Syndrome
I’ve been in the car business most of my adult life. On the dealer side and the vendor side. I can say one thing has held true for a long time. We keep looking for the one silver bullet that we can buy that is going to solve ALL of our problems. We’re starting to realize it doesn’t exist and no one is likely ever going to create it. A lot of the conversations I had and overheard were around “how” the team back home was going to be able to use a specific tool, would there be redundancy, are there integrations, etc. Questions that weren’t asked as consistently in years passed.
3.) Cooperation and Consolidation
There was a more friendly and collaborative environment than in years past. Companies working together to provide better solutions for dealers and smarter dealership tools to ultimately improve the customer experience. Companies investing in or acquiring other companies in order to better serve their collective dealers and grow their business.
4.) Customer Experience Is Key
We heard that customers didn’t like the current car buying process loud and clear after years of getting it beat into our head. We interpreted that like “people want to buy a car like they buy anything on Amazon.” We searched out, purchased and installed dealership tools that allowed customers to do all or some of the process online. For the most part everyone was disappointed with the results. Customers couldn’t really “buy a car fully online” and it required a lot more training, setup, follow up and simply more effort to implement these changes than most people thought. The customer sentiment didn’t change much and in some cases got worse.
As we know we learn way more through our failures than our successes. The customer experience was at the forefront of a lot of conversations this NADA. There were a lot more questions and even multiple demos in person with someone “back at the ranch” on FaceTime to really understand if making a decision would really yield a better customer experience or just be another software bill. It was clear that better dealership tools, whether for BDC teams, to sales staff and beyond, must lead to an incredible customer experience.
5.) Educated and Focused Dealers
Digital marketing and digital retailing were a bit like “Braille” for dealers in years past. With experience comes understanding. Combine that with great events that provide training in these areas the past several years and you have a dealer body that “gets it” more than they have in years past.
Overall, The 2020 National Automobile Dealers Association Expo was a hit. The best ever in my personal opinion. The parties may have not been the biggest ever, the VIP guests may have not been the most impressive ever, but the real important stuff… the reasons why we should all be here were the best. The content, the dealer tools and solutions, the conversations, they were all as high quality as I’ve seen yet.
I’m looking forward to an amazing decade in automotive. 2020 is just the start!