From Bad to Worse

Mark Twain once said a lie can travel half-way around the world while the truth is still getting its shoes on.

Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. delivers much the same message here to dealers.

He warns dealers against ignoring unflattering customer reviews that are posted on the Internet. Address them immediately, because the fallout can “fester and go south quickly.

“And believe me, we know something about going south quickly,” Lentz adds.

‘I’d lke 2 Slve the Pzzl, Pat’

Much of this year’s NADA discussions focuses on the car-buying behavior of Gen Y consumers (19-31 years old).

But George Borst, CEO of Toyota Financial Services, says he still is getting used to some Gen Y staffers work habits, such as a tendency to send text messages in an abbreviated style.

“They will text me something in which vowels are not an option,” he says. “If they were ever on ‘The Wheel of Fortune,’ they’d never buy a vowel.”

Keep on Truckin’

Outgoing NADA Chairman Ed Tonkin weathered numerous attacks on his fellow dealers during 2010.

These ranged from an Internal Revenue Service bid to adopt accounting measures considered oppressive by new-vehicle retailers to proposed legislation that allegedly threatened the viability of dealer-financed consumer loans.

Fittingly, Tonkin takes his final bow to the strains of “Truckin’” by the Bay area’s favorite sons, the Grateful Dead.

And he concurs with the lyric, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Next Conference Item Verdi’s “Rigoletto”?

Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

The Westin Saint Francis, one of the grand hotels of San Francisco, looms above Union Square but is equally impressive inside, including some of its meeting rooms.

The American Financial Services Assn. held its annual vehicle-financing conference (in conjunction with the NADA confab) in an ornate room with wall murals, gilded columns, chandeliers and mezzanine-level loge box seating overlooking the main floor.

The setting prompts association officer Frank Armstrong to say, “I feel like we’re holding this meeting in an opera house.”