An additional benefit for management attendees is the opportunity to experience the tremendous size and scope of the industry they have chosen for a career.

THE 2001 NADA CONVENTION IN LAS VEGAS WAS magnificent in size and scope.

Imagine an industry that can attract 30,000 dealers, exhibitors, manufacturers and journalists to a single city.

It was especially impressive for me as I had missed the two previous conventions because an auto accident had restricted my ability to travel from Hawaii (my retirement locale).

Although it would be difficult to drum up any sympathy for being marooned in Hawaii, I had established a long-term relationship with NADA conventions since the years when I served as the NADA director from Massachusetts and chaired the annual convention for some of those years.

I had intimate knowledge of how much time and commitment Steve Pitt and his staff give to producing the quality convention we experienced in Las Vegas. There are so many elements to be considered. For example:

  • Finding a site for future conventions five to eight years hence;

  • Finding the proper amount of quality exhibition space;

  • Finding an adequate number of hotel rooms and facilities for hospitality suites;

  • Finding a facility with enough meeting rooms to conduct the growing number of workshops;

  • Finding an auditorium to accommodate the thousands of attendees at the general sessions plus the Sunday morning non-denominational worship service;

  • Arranging transportation;

  • Finding a proper environment for attendees to enjoy new cities and a host population who will display a pleasant and welcoming attitude for convention attendees;

  • Making sure a city's Chamber of Commerce types are enthusiastic about hosting an NADA Convention and all that comes with it.

The importance of this particular requirement was dramatically demonstrated several years ago when a Miami Beach convention committee attempted to out-fox NADA with some important logistical changes after the convention had convened.

Coincidental with the shenanigans were a rash of complaints about shoddy hotel service. NADA never returned to that city, and millions in convention dollars were irresponsibly lost.

Currently, there are only a handful of cities equipped to host an NADA convention. These are San Francisco, New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas.

The numbers of dealership managers attending the convention in Las Vegas set new records for attendance. One dealer, on a rotating basis, brings one of four managers with him to each annual convention.

They arrive on Friday and depart on Tuesday so actually a minimum of time is taken from the dealership.

An additional benefit for management attendees is the opportunity to experience the tremendous size and scope of the industry they have chosen for a career.

Many dealership managers view their jobs through a narrow perspective, spending the bulk of their day putting out customer-relations fires and getting little opportunity to feel part of one of America's vital industries. A greater perspective opens up during the few days spent at the convention.

It had always amazed me why more dealers didn't utilize this powerful training tool for their key managers. But they are finally getting the message, as shown by the attendance numbers at the Las Vegas gathering.

Other extremely important convention events are the franchise meetings where dealers can air their concerns with factory executives.

It gives the factory guys a chance to communicate directly with their dealers, rather than getting filtered information from lower-echelon representatives.

Attendance at NADA conventions is a powerful means to carry a message of dealer unity to manufacturers. A huge convention like the one in Las Vegas sends a strong message to manufacturers.

Nat Shulman was owner of Best Chevrolet in Hingham, MA for many years.