The largest AADA study group in seven years (97 delegates) enjoyed an action-packed, business-centric time at the 2016 NADA Convention in Las Vegas in late March/early April.
Heading the group were former AADA CEO Patrick Tessier (running his 19th study tour to NADA) and his successor, Bruce McDonald.
The highlight of the trip was the second annual AADA International Relations Dinner, which was attended by the 2015 NADA Chairman, Bill Fox, as well as three of his predecessors (Jack Kain, Dave Westcott and Forrest McConnell), plus the President and Vice-President of NADA (Peter Welch and Mike Regan, respectively) and NADA International Affairs Director, Albert Gallegos.
This dinner has become the go-to event for many US and international industry leaders, and the fact they attended the dinner at the same time as GM was holding its international cocktail party shows the high regard with which AADA is held. Also in attendance were Mr Shen Jinjun, Executive Chairman of the China Automotive Dealer Association, and representatives from Dealer associations of nations including France and Brazil.
Mr Tessier said he was very pleased with the recognition AADA received from the international Dealer community and hoped the exchange of valuable information would continue to grow.
“It’s important, because there a lot of similarities. Governments interact with Dealer associations around the world in very similar ways to how our government interacts with us,” he said.
“A lot of the complex policy issues that we face, those countries face as well. They might be slightly different, but in the main they have the same issues that we have. So to learn from their experiences – which has always been my goal – is helpful.”
That’s why Mr Tessier and AADA helped found the International Dealer Associations Working Group, to discuss common issues and share solutions.
The other highlight of the tour was the visit to two AutoNation Dealerships. The AADA delegates split into two groups, one visiting AutoNation Nissan and the other AutoNation Toyota. What struck delegates was the contrast between the similar themes faced by the US and Australian markets, but the different procedures in place to tackle them.
“In America they have what’s called a ‘desking’ system. The sales manager doesn’t have an office, he sits at a desk on the showroom floor. He manages the traffic, makes sure everyone gets attended to, authorises whatever deal may or may not get done, manages the trade-in valuations. It’s a very different operation to what we do in Australia, so that was very enlightening,” Mr Tessier said.
“My take-out from it was that there’s a lot to be said for how we present the dealership and the inventory. My stand-out in that dealership was the presentation of everything they do to what the customer actually sees.
“All the cars, whether they were new or used, the display was pristine. The used cars looked like they were new cars. Everything was uniform. It was really a big lesson. A used car is actually a new car to the customer who’s buying it, and they understand that very well.”
Another difference was AutoNation’s aim to deliver each car as it was sold, on the spot.
“It doesn’t happen with everybody because they might have a credit query, but in the main, that’s what they do,” Mr Tessier said.
“If they sell a new car, all their cars are already prepared and ready to go.”
The 2016 NADA Convention had its largest-ever range of internet and digital solutions, with a great emphasis on CRM.
“That’s interesting, because whilst we all know that the best customer we have is the one we’ve already got, in Australia we’re actually quite poor at understanding that,” Mr Tessier said.
“We could learn a lot from the Americans, because they certainly have come to the conclusion that that’s where the future is. It’s not in discounting cars and making certain we gut the gross out of every single car, it’s about building referrals, and building your reputation. I got that take-out when I was in the AutoNation Dealership, and I certainly got it when I was in the workshop program at NADA. The exhibition was flooded with companies offering CRM solutions.
“The exhibit is like a barometer of where the market sits, because there’s 600 companies displaying a product and/or service for the Dealers. There was a strong flavour of CRM in the exhibit this year, and in the workshop program.”