By Sheryll Poe, NADA Contributor

Only NADA has the ability to bring an entire industry together for the world’s largest automotive retail conference and expo, and this year, they are bringing the Show to your dealership or home with the first ever virtual NADA Show. “We’re making history here. It’s the NADA Show as it’s never been done before,” NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart said in his welcome video on NADA Show’s new virtual platform.

Thousands of fellow dealers and managers, OEM execs, allied industry and international guests are able to connect with their peers and learn how to better run their dealerships and shop the latest industry innovations without having to leave their businesses. In fact, with the virtual format, the whole dealership can attend and benefit from the Show.

Over the course of three days, attendees will find hundreds of exhibitors, more than 60 workshops, dealer franchise meetings and an impressive list of keynote speakers. Best of all, the new virtual format will allow access to live sessions, plus on-demand access after the Show.

NADA Gives Back
While Tuesday was the first day of NADA Show 2021 programming, the excitement really started earlier in the week, as NADA continued its long history of supporting local organizations in cities that host its annual show. While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted NADA’s ability to host an in-person Show in New Orleans, NADA stayed committed to its’ tradition by donating $25,000 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans. The donation will help Second Harvest respond to the alarming increase in food insecurity in New Orleans caused by the pandemic.

Big Themes & Big Stars on the Main Stage
2020 was a challenging year for everyone, but through it all, NADA was there as a partner for America’s new and used car franchise dealerships, according to 2020 NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart. “When I spoke on this stage last year, I talked about corruption, obstruction and disruption to the auto retail industry,” Ricart said during his opening session on the NADA Main Stage. “But the biggest disruption of all turned out to be COVID-19. We went through a shutdown, but not a slowdown because the reality is dealers don’t slow down.”

“I want you to know the NADA was with all of you,” Ricart continued. “This association worked harder, worked faster and gave so much of itself.” Ricart pointed out that NADA worked with Congress, the administration and state and local governments to make sure that auto dealers could get emergency funds and stay open as essential businesses during the pandemic. “NADA did everything to tackle every issue, big and small, and it paid off in a big way. We got through the pandemic together.”

After a surprise performance by recording artists Lee Greenwood, Ricart introduced a couple of special guests to the Main Stage: actor/producer—and franchised dealer—Mark Wahlberg and his dealer partner Jay Feldman.

Wahlberg, who joined the NADA Show from Ecuador, where he’s shooting his latest adventure movie, “Arthur the King,” said he’s always been a big car fanatic. “The first year that I was able to get my license, I bought a car…fixed it up a little, sold it. I actually went through 18 cars in one year, on the same insurance policy, upgrading, upgrading, upgrading.”

In 2018, Wahlberg partnered with Jay Feldman of Feldman Automotive Group to open Mark Wahlberg Chevrolet, the first of four stores they now own in Columbus, Ohio. “We have a great partnership and we’re looking for other opportunities,” Feldman told Ricart.

Finally, the Main Stage programming closed out with the naming of the 2021 TIME Dealer of the Year, Richard DeSilva Jr., from Liberty Subaru in Emerson, N.J.

Expert-Led Workshops, Peer-to-Peer Learning
Education is a big focus at NADA Show 2020, and day one kicked off expert-led workshops and education sessions as well as peer-to-peer virtual Exchange sessions that dive into every trend, issue and update affecting dealerships today-–all chosen by NADA Show attendees. Each day will feature five separate group chats on industry topic led by NADA staff facilitators. Attendees just choose their discussion topic and join the conversation.

NADA Academy instructors and consultants as well as top industry specialists are leading the more than 60 education sessions, both live and on-demand during the virtual NADA Show. One standout session was the “Best of the Best Ideas from NADA 20 Groups” session. Over the years, NADA 20 Groups have been meeting up and competing with each other to present the “Best Idea.” During this year’s NADA Show, NADA 20 Group Dealer Management Consultant Tim Gavin shared 35 new ideas gleaned from the NADA 20 Groups on how to sell more cars, sell more service and parts or reduce expenses.

The Expo
The auto industry’s premier marketplace, the virtual Expo, opened today with virtual booths from 240 exhibiting companies showcasing thousands of products, services and solutions for every department of your dealership.

Exhibitors are offering Show specials including product discounts, volume discounts, free trial offers and free gifts with purchases. Plus, there’s an exclusive Expo hour daily from 2:30-3:30pm EST to take advantage of expanded shopping access and special product demos.

In addition, attendees can connect with exhibitors by setting appointments with preferred vendors before the Show and connect live during the event. Live chat functionality will provide enhanced communication in this new virtual, “face-to-face” environment.

Looking Ahead to Day 2
Ricart will once again take to the Main Stage tomorrow morning at 11am EST, this time to talk to veteran journalist Bob Woodward about what changes a Biden administration will bring and what the business community can expect. The “Diversity in Retail” Super Session starts at 11:30am EST and features a dealer panel discussion on what’s needed in the evolution of auto retail.

In the afternoon, Ford CEO Jim Farley will join Ricart to discuss how recent challenges have changed the face of auto retailing. And the ADESA Charity Auction to benefit Canine Companions for Independence takes place on the virtual Expo floor at 3pm. This year’s auction item is a 2021 Kawasaki TERYX4 utility vehicle.

Don’t miss a single day! Stay up to date on sessions and recaps with our official daily show recaps and be sure to follow all things NADA Show on social media using the hashtag #NADASHOW on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Posted by NADA

National Automobile Dealers Association