NADA 100: A Celebration of the Past, with a Focus on the Future

Ever wonder why the annual NADA convention is such a big deal? Why the retail side of the automotive business comes to a virtual halt every year, so that managers can gather, swap stories and check out the latest technology?

The effectiveness of NADA might have to do with the fact that the convention has happened, like clockwork, for 100 years, and that each of those years has included important topics and developments critical to the way cars are sold. Through good times and bad – the Great Depression, World War II, massive booms and busts – the convention has survived and thrived because it serves as a powerful platform for members to gather and discuss the important issues of the day, all with one objective in mind: find better ways to more effectively sell cars and trucks. It’s amazing to consider the distance the convention has come since those early days, and how influential it has been to the industry and the people who make this business so unique. 


Its longevity (and effectiveness) is due, in large part, to its future-focused point of view. The expo features technology meant to improve auto retail workflows and marketing practices; the convention highlights education sessions designed to point the way forward for dealer managers. Its keynote speakers don’t focus on the past as much as the future opportunities and expected obstacles of the coming year – and beyond. It’s like one big future planning session for car people. While this year’s theme, “NADA 100,” is meant to be a celebration of the past, talk in the halls is about the possibilities of the new year. Most of all, there’s a focus on adapting to the rapidly changing expectations and habits of today’s car buyer. For example, Cox Automotive’s just-released 2017 Car Buyer Journey Study revealed that car shoppers spend 60 percent of their time online, and 21 percent of their time at the dealership of purchase.

That paints a picture of well-informed consumers who have clear expectations and the need for a seamless purchase journey. The study, which surveyed over 2,000 recent car buyers, also found that “more than half of car buyers do not contact the dealership prior to their first visit,” a point that underlines the importance of connected workflows and robust CRM processes that work in sync with the online to in-store experience. 

As Always, It’s About Change

But back to the original question: What’s the big deal about a little gathering in New Orleans? Well it just so happens to be important – make that vital – to the progress of our industry. The show, the sessions and the technology demonstrated help to calibrate the industry to coming changes in the business. And let’s face it: change comes standard in the car business. To that end, the annual NADA Convention is like a well-informed walk-around that previews the possibilities and opportunities to come.

Check out the NADA 100 Story section, to see just how far the convention has come over the past 100 years.