A Tale of Two Conventions

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May 10, 2013 by Minuteman Trucks

I have no facts to support my contention that all of us – at one time or another – had a “Mrs. Lily Literature” or “Sister Mary English” in high school. I willfully fought them all the way through every dissection of Dickens Tale of Two Cities.

Begrudgingly, I was reminded of them after reviewing the results and the survey responses about the NADA / ATD Convention held in Orlando February of this year. Car Dealers and Truck Dealers have significantly different reasons for attending the Convention. Before discussing our differences, some facts about the Convention:

  • The convention organizing committee is a standing committee of the NADA / ATD Board and the chairman of the organizing committee sits on the NADA Executive Committee. Planning for the convention starts several years before the actual event. For example some planning is taking place for the 2016 convention in Las Vegas.
  • The convention is a major fund raiser in support of the NADA / ATD; the convention success helps to keep dues low for all members. Other revenue generators for the Association are the “Used Car Guide,” NADART and Dealer Operations / NADA University.
  • 21,000 car registrants and 900 truck registrants attended the convention. Although the attendance was slightly less than Las Vegas the number of attendees exceeded the planned budget and the NADA Board was very happy with the turnout. There is something about Orlando that reduces attendance – maybe people are afraid they will need to bring the kids for a Disney visit and they don’t want to spend the money.
  • All of the booked hotel rooms were sold out and the convention staff actually needed to find additional rooms before the convention began. Motto here is book early specially in places like New Orleans and Las Vegasa.

After the Convention the NADA / ATD send four different surveys to measure satisfaction: one survey goes to the car exhibitors, another to the car attendee registrants, a third to the truck exhibitors and finally one to the truck attendee registrants. Of course the responses are used to tailor the coming convention but, they illuminate the differences between car and truck.

As you all know, 1,700 truck dealers make-up about 10% of the NADA / ATD membership. Since truck users are on the move regionally and nationally truck dealers are continuously supporting one another’s customers – I think we know one another more than car dealers know one another. Each brand of truck has roughly 250 franchised dealers. And the 1,700 dealers support roughly 3.5 million trucks in operation throughout the country. So it seems to me we are more of a “village” than car dealers are a community.

Make meetings are the motivation for roughly half of all truck dealers and managers to attend the convention. Networking with fellow dealers and managers is the second reason approximately thirty percent travel to the convention. Truck dealers choose workshops as the third most important reason to attend the convention. The exhibits and the general sessions are down in the single digits – this result particularly hurt my pride: I thought everyone showed up to hear my keynote speech!

For the car attendees, the most important aspect of the convention is the exhibition; nearly 40 percent of the attendees identify the exposition as the most important reason for attending the convention. The workshops are the second most important reason for attending the convention with about 35 percent citing them as the motivator. Networking is in third place with only about 14 percent of the population expressing it as a priority. I feel a little better about my speech writing after seeing the car side: slightly more than two percent saw the general sessions as important – I am up above 3 percent. So there!

One of the big surprises to me in the dealer surveys is how much more important it is to the car attendees to have advances in technology related to the convention: the apps, social media, the technology centers, etc. New technology items are being reviewed for next year.

The exhibitors on the car side are very happy with the turnout and the activity while the truck exhibitors are less so.

Overall both car and truck attendees have positive comments regarding the combined convention.  Having the ATD and NADA conventions together is seen as a benefit.  In general truck people saw this year’s execution as better than last year but some improvements might include.

  • More work to minimize the overlap of make meetings, in particular, avoid having medium-duty only make meetings at the same time as class 8 make meetings.
  • Block enough rooms in one hotel to accommodate the truck attendees  Having truck attendees together (dealers, OEM’s, Allied Industry) promotes social interaction in the hotel lobby/lounge fostering the networking truck registrants look to have at the convention.
  • ATD Dealer lounge was a good idea, but it needs more awareness.

Start planning early for New Orleans.


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