Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

ORLANDO, FL – It’s a national trade show that draws an international following.

Among the 15,000 attendees at this year’s National Automobile Dealer Assn. convention are foreign dealers who see the U.S. auto market as a trend setter.

The top-10 foreign markets represented are Canada, Australia, Brazil, the U.K., Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, South Africa and Mexico.

“The auto industry is all about trends and many of those start in the U.S.,” says Steve Pitt, NADA vice president-conventions and expositions. “That’s why many international dealers attend the convention.”

Among them is Jaap Timmer, the Dutch chairman of Europe’s Opel/Vauxhall dealer organization. It is his 17th NADA convention in a row. “The convention gives me a lot of inspiration and motivation and is always refreshing, especially in difficult times,” he says.

Timmer attends to learn the latest in information technologies and business-management practices. He became a second-generation dealer in 1964. His son now owns and operates the family business, which sells Opel, Saab, Cadillac, Kia and Mazda brands.

Timmer says U.S. and European dealers share similar struggles as they strive for profitability in shrinking markets.

What’s different, he says is U.S. dealers enjoy more legal protections under franchise laws, although that was put to a test last year when General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC bankruptcy provisions elbowed state franchise laws aside.

“U.S. dealers are appreciated more in their local communities than dealers in Europe,” Timmer adds, referring to American dealers funding everything from youth sports to cancer research to food kitchens.

Another distinction: “There is more direct communication between manufacturers and dealers in the U.S.,” he says. “An advantage in the U.S. is that everybody speaks the same language, contrary to Europe.”

For the second-straight year, NADA will translate select workshops into Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

“We are pleased to see so many international dealers from so many countries coming to the convention,” says Brian Hamilton, NADA convention chairman and a Nebraska dealer.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com