2018 NIADA Convention sets attendance record and more

More than 2,100 attendees went to the 2018 NIADA Convention, which began with the Welcome Lunch pictured here. (Photo courtesy of NIADA)

Here are more numbers that might please independent dealerships.

The 2018 NIADA Convention and Expo might have been the 72nd such event in the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s long history, but it is No. 1 in all sorts of categories.

NIADA’s first combined Mega-Conference since its December acquisition of the National Alliance of Buy- Here, Pay-Here Dealers drew 2,131 attendees, obliterating the previous NIADA attendance record — set in 2017 — by a massive 26 percent.

This year’s event conducted in June marked the third consecutive year of record attendance for the convention and the sixth straight of an attendance increase from the previous year.

The 2018 event also set records for most dealers in attendance, most expo hall exhibitors and most education sessions. For more than 23 percent of total attendees and nearly 27 percent of dealers, it was their first NIADA Convention.

And reviews of the event were decidedly positive.

More than 96 percent of the attendees and exhibitors who responded to NIADA’s post-convention survey said they would recommend the NIADA Convention and Expo to a friend or colleague, and more than 91 percent said they are likely or extremely likely to attend future NIADA events.

 In addition, 86 percent said the convention met their objectives, and 98 percent said they plan to engage with NIADA in the future.

 “It exceeded all my expectations,” said Rob Jones of Auto Express in Lafayette, Ind. “We’re coming home with products and information to take our dealership to the next level.”

 Dealers and the record 212 vendors and industry partners that exhibited felt they got their money’s worth from the expo hall as 81 percent of respondents to the survey rated their Expo experience “excellent” or “good.”

“As a vendor actively engaged in the non-franchise and BHPH dealer space, this conference was a perfect one-stop shop that allowed me to see many current customers and to engage several new prospects,” said Scott Satterthwaite of American Risk Services. “We look forward to next year.”

Like the number of attendees and exhibitors, the 60 education sessions were the most in NIADA Convention history, featuring an increase in BHPH topics thanks to the new affiliation with NABD, and an all new digital track featuring sessions on everything from Facebook marketing to digital inventory sourcing to cybersecurity.

 The keynote address showcased the energy, wit and inspiration of ESPN and ABS Sports college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, while the training sessions featured many of the top names in the used vehicle industry, including Cox Automotive’s Mark O’Neil and TrueCar’s Chip Perry — who spoke as part of the opening Marketplace Keynote Series — as well as attorney Tom Hudson, sales trainer Paul Webb, AFC’s Joe Keadle and many others.

NABD’s Ken Shilson and Ingram Walters and NIADA’s own Steve Jordan, Shaun Petersen, Chuck Bonanno, David Brotherton, Mark Dubois and Justin Osburn were also prominently featured.

In addition, Rep. Stephanie Murphy delivered an inspiring address at Tuesday’s Welcome Lunch, and Wednesday’s Financing Fair gave dealers a chance to meet one-on-one with finance companies to discuss their specific issues and situations.

The convention’s entertainment, which included the Cigars and Martinis Welcome Reception followed by a concert by the Grammy-nominated country duo Big & Rich presented by TradeRev, as well as a closing After Party, was praised in comments from attendees.

NIADA also shared a wide array of assessment from attendees, including:

“This is my third year attending the NIADA Convention, and each year has gotten better and better. I always walk away with a fresh perspective and new ideas to implement in my dealership. I would highly recommend for others to attend and see just how valuable it is for expanding your business.”
— Dan Johnson, LiteHouse Auto, Lakewood, N.Y.

“Great selection of classes, vendors and speakers. Helps me navigate my company into the future by keeping me up to date on current and future technology, compliance and industry forecasts.”
— Gus Camacho, Camacho Auto Sales, Palmdale, Calif.

“Knocked it out of the park this year. ... Best convention I have ever attended.”
— Joe Segrave, Benchmark Auto Sales, Asheville, N.C.

“It’s hard to go wrong with new speakers sharing new and innovative ideas. I brought back at least four cost-saving, compliance and marketing ideas that I will use. I met the most helpful tech, tax and marketing vendors, and I will engage with them in the near future. Plus, I love connecting with old friends and making new ones.”
— Darla Booher, Deal Depot, Greer, S.C.

“A must-attend and best event for independent dealers.”
— Joe McCloskey, McCloskey Motors, Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Great first-time experience. It was a lot of fun and also provided a lot of information about the industry.”
— Mike Clement, Rock Solid Auto Center, Mesa, Ariz.

“The first combined Mega-Conference for NIADA and NABD was a smashing success. There were great educational classes, a roomful of vendors welcoming you in the Expo Hall, some great speakers, a Big & Rich concert and, of course, there was Dick Vitale to let us know it was ‘awesome, baby!’”
— Bob Zeserson, Shannon Motors Johnston, R.I.

“Being my first NIADA Convention I was not sure what to expect. The convention location was perfect and easy to navigate, the speakers provided experience and insight on relevant topics and the events outside of the convention provided an environment that was fun and carefree. It was an experience I look forward to having again.”
— Grace Schaefer, Gravitational Marketing

“Wonderful. The best part is always interacting with the other dealers. It was great seeing the first-timers connect with us – we can learn a lot from them. NIADA does an amazing job. The caring level from them is awesome and contagious.”
— John Caudell, Pre-owned Motor Cars, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

“An extremely important event for professionals looking to better their businesses.”
— Jim Winterick Sr., Gulfstream Motor Credit, Miami

“Tremendous experience. Incredible education and training. And I had the opportunity to connect with an incredible group of vendors at one of the largest Expos I have ever attended. Thank you, NIADA!”
— Robert Hogan, American Transmission and Auto Exchange, Jacksonville, Fla.

“Great experience, very informative. A must for every car dealer.”
—Scott Shook, Shook Auto Inc., New Philadelphia, Ohio

“Very pleased, extremely impressed. Outstanding location, networking opportunities and five-star food and beverage. Top-notch from networking to food to stunning location.”
— Renee Perri, Wheels Automotive Dealer Supplies Inc.

“Dick Vitale was amazing. The educational part of the program is what I enjoy the most. I loved the event NIADA put together. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Everyone was extremely professional and very courteous, and I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed it.”
— Pauline De Maria, Karmike USA, Newport, N.C.

“We were exhibitors and we felt it was one of the best overall experiences we have had. We made many, many lasting contacts and business connections. This was top-notch – right up there with the best!”
— Ron Dent, Florida Auto Tag Agency, Orlando, Fla.

“The entire conference was very professional and extremely informative. The entire staff was friendly. It was enjoyable, to say the least. Above the rest for sure. And the Big & Rich concert was fantastic.”
— Douglas Fernandez, ABC Auto, Tampa, Fla.

“I highly recommend the NIADA Convention. The time spent talking with other dealers — as well as the one-on-one time with the speakers — is worth the time spent away from my dealership.”
— Brenna Stansberry, Park Marina Motors, Redding, Calif.

 “As a brand-new dealer and member of NIADA, I was impressed with the level of professionalism and my ability to connect with so many quality vendors, all in a couple of days.”
— Bob Migliori, Boca Leasing Center, Boca Raton, Fla.

“Best conference I have ever been to. How about Big & Rich? They were awesome!”
— David Andrews, City Auto, Memphis, Tenn.

“Being able to network with other dealers and discuss challenges facing our industry was extremely enlightening and helpful.”
— Dan Doherty, Helm Associates, Bristol, Pa.

“The NIADA convention always gets better!”
— Sandra Moss, Moss Motor Co., Dillwyn, Va.