By Sheryll Poe, NADA Contributor

The Automotive Industry Event of the Year “Zoom”-ed into its second day, as thousands of auto dealers, vendors and manufacturers from around the world tuned in to the first-ever, all-virtual NADA Show 2021. “Even though we can’t be together in person, we can still attend events that will help us grow our businesses this year,” said 2020 NADA Chairman Rhett Ricart.

So far, attendees have heard from keynote speakers and industry experts, attended educational workshops and live dealer franchise meetings, and cruised through a virtual Expo, where hundreds of exhibitors are offering innovative products, services and technologies specifically targeted to franchised new car dealerships.

And of course, they have connected with others in the industry in group chats in the virtual Exchange, at numerous virtual happy hours and receptions, and through the NADA Show’s new matchmaking tool, Network Now.

Here are some highlights from Day Two:

Insights on the Changing Political and Industry Landscapes
Ricart opened the day’s programming with a discussion with veteran journalist Bob Woodward on the past administration, the new administration and what it’s like to have covered Washington, D.C., for more than four decades. “No matter your political beliefs, it’s important for all dealers—for any business owners—to be engaged in the political process. We must make our voices heard,” Ricart said before introducing Woodward as “one of the greatest journalists of our time.”

The main theme in today’s political climate? Uncertainty, Woodward said. It’s unclear where the Republican party goes after Donald Trump, and it is unclear what kind of unifier or centrist leader President Joe Biden will be. “The verdict and the description on how Biden governs is not in yet,” Woodward said. “We’ll measure it issue by issue and whether he can work the Congress.”

Later in the day, attendees watched as Ford Motor Co.’s CEO Jim Farley sat down with Ricart for an interview at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich. Farley shared his views on how recent challenges have changed the face of auto retailing going forward. Ford itself has undergone a lot of recent change, with Farley taking the helm a year ago. “We’re off to a good start,” Farley said about the 117-year-old manufacturer. “Dealers and Ford work best when we have a plan, so we have a plan that’s very specific.”

Part of that plan is an aggressive move toward e-mobility, including the launch of the Mustang Mach-E SUV, an all-electric vehicle. “It’s going to take time for our society to move to e-mobility. It won’t be 100 percent,” Farley said. He said he was encouraged by recent data from Europe which found that one in every 10 retail vehicles sold in December were pure electric, and Farley believes dealers will adapt. The number of battery electric vehicles (BEV) models is on pace to grow from 40 models to 150 in just a few years, and dealers will learn how to sell them. “I am so confident in the entrepreneurial spirit of our dealers. They always figure it out,” he said.

Super Session: Diversity in Auto Retail
Three successful and diverse minority automotive retailers came to the NADA Show to share their experiences and insights into diversity and inclusion at the dealership level in Day Two’s highly anticipated Super Session.

Ivan Figueroa of Steve Landers Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, Ray Fregia, Jr. of Courtesy Auto Group, and Kathryn Mataga of Mataga Buick GMC Cadillac joined NADA’s Jeff Breeland to talk about why diversity at the dealership is important and what they are doing to hire and promote more diverse employees.

Diversity at the dealership is a value-added proposition, Breeland explained, and several panelists noted that customers want to do business in a place where they see others like themselves. “We have seen from customers how much they appreciate the diversity we have and that they are comfortable,” said Figueroa.

Mataga agreed: “When you have a customer come in and they see a female there, they just feel connected… They see that you—as a company—are including all people, and they feel more comfortable doing business in that environment,” she said.

Diversity and inclusion are an ongoing exercise that must permeate every aspect of the dealership, the three dealers said. Fregia relies on daily meetings with his employees to teach him what issues and local communities need support. “I want my own fair share of the market, so I’ve got to be inclusive and know everything that’s going on. I can’t do that by myself. I need my people… to teach me and make me aware,” Fregia said.

Session attendees also got in on the conversation, submitting questions on hiring, promoting and providing the right environment to grow and diversify the industry.

Charity Auction Brings the Dogs
The ADESA Charity Auction is always a crowd pleaser. Usually, adorable and impressive assistance dogs roam the Expo floor at the NADA Show to educate attendees on the worthwhile cause of service dogs, drive up the bidding and, hopefully, get a few head pats along the way.

This year was slightly different, but the generosity of NADA Show attendees was on full display. The virtual Zoom auction of a 2021 Kawasaki TERYX4 utility vehicle raised $40,000 to benefit the NADA Foundation and Canine Companions for Independence, which provides highly trained assistance dogs for children, adults and veterans with disabilities.

Women Driving Auto Retail Happy Hour
More than 400 attendees registered to attend the NADA Women Driving Auto Retail virtual happy hour to hear from women who are shaping auto retail in the industry today. “When I started in the business in 1994, I did not know how I was going to be accepted. I was a woman in a man’s world and I was so scared,” said Susan Moffitt, Dealer Principal of Porsche Shreveport and Moffitt Mazda and the 2020 TIME Dealer of the Year. But she quickly realized she was “in the people business and people love dealing with women.”

Mother-daughter team Grené and Juanita Baranco, of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead, joined Ally’s Kathy Ruble to talk about how to attract women to the auto retail business. “What I would say to young women and older women, and everybody, really, is we need to support each other,” Grené said about engendering role models. “Support is the most important thing we can do for each other. Do not tear each other down.”

As far as finding new and diverse talent, Juanita said one of her most successful tactics is requiring applicants to do an aptitude test. “The overall thing is it’s best to grow your own. We hire for potential.” They also do blind interviews. “When you cut out the gender bias and the race bias, you end up with a very diverse population.”

It’s one thing to hire more women at the dealership, but it’s another thing to keep female employees engaged after they are hired. CarGurus’ Arielle Aldrich welcomed Laurie Foster of Foster Strategies and Candice Crane of Crane Automotive Resources to discuss the tools dealers can use to retain and foster female employees over the long run.

Advocating for themselves and other women is key to retaining women in the industry, Foster and Crane said. “What I struggle with when I go into the stores is that there are people in the stores that can improve culture and move the ball forward,” Crane said. “I would encourage all of us to make our voices heard. Insist on a seat at the table, and bring people along.”

Women also have to be ready to take advantage of opportunity by exposing themselves to every part of the dealership, Foster said. “I’m constantly telling women whether the dealership is doing it or not, start exposing yourself to other verticals at the organization. Jump in there and raise a hand up and say, ‘I want to know more.’”

The virtual happy hour ended with the announcement of the winner of the 4th annual Women Driving Auto Retail video contest. “2021 is the year for women to show what they’re made of,” said Michelle Primm, NADA Board of Director member and managing partner of Cascade Auto Group, who urged women to “put themselves out there.” Primm gave a toast to the contest winner: the team at Morrie’s Automotive Group of Minnetonka, Minn.

Car Collector Garage
Speaking of video contests, be sure to stop by the NADA Car Collector Garage. Twenty-three NADA Show attendees submitted videos of their favorite collector cars and the autos on display are impressive.

They include Bob Campbell’s 1961 Porsche 356B Cabriolet, which he sold to buy into his dealership and had to wait 25 years to buy back, and NADA 2020 Chairman Rhett Ricart’s fully restored 1953 Ford F-Series, the first truck his father sold from the family dealership.

Take a moment to view the videos and vote for your favorite. The winner will receive $5,000 to be donated to a charity of their choice.

Distinguished Speakers Series & Live Stage
Meanwhile, the NADA Show Distinguished Speaker Series features luminaries who share their lessons on leadership, culture, team building and training. Jeff Havens of Big Pow Enterprises, LLC uses comedy to illustrate how managers and executives can be better leaders. Be sure to check out his “Compliment Sandwich” analogy.

Meanwhile, Eric Boles of The Game Changers Inc. talks about how to lead and grow more effective teams. “To lead and build teams, especially legacy teams, they’re built on the foundation of courage,” Boles said in his motivational session. “Many times, a leader’s success can be measured in the number of uncomfortable conversations they are willing to have. Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable.”

All five Distinguished Speaker session videos are available now on demand for registered attendees through April 11 and have been translated into Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Finally, the NADA Live Stage continued to be a hub of learning and insight as NADA experts and leaders shared words of wisdom on what lies ahead for NADA as an organization, a quick overview of regulatory issues that could affect auto dealers under the new administration, and an update on how NADA Show host city New Orleans is faring after an unprecedented year.

Looking Ahead to Day 3
Don’t miss the last day of the Show! Get to know incoming NADA Chairman Paul Walser and new NADA President and CEO Mike Stanton as they take to the Main Stage at 11am. Plus, we’ll all get together one last time for the virtual Closing Celebration at 4:30pm.

Don’t miss a single day! Stay up to date on sessions and recaps, including all the action on the Live Stage, 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