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No Regrets: TADA 2019 President’s Conference

For those who attended, this was an event to truly savour.

It’s an interesting time to be in automotive retail. A lot of headwinds, from changing consumer preferences to electrification, to autonomous vehicles and new retail models are all impacting the business. These topics proved a key focal point at the 2019 Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) President’s Member Vendor Conference in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from April 30-May 5.

A total of 116 dealers, suppliers and auto retail professionals from across Ontario and beyond, gathered to listen to some insight information sessions, as well as multiple networking opportunities and participate in team building and recreational events.

Some highlights included a special presentation from the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), with Chairman Perry Itzcovitch taking the stage, followed by President John White.

Looking to the future

CADA will be shortly releasing a 2019 Whitepaper, entitled The Future of Automotive Retail, covering a range of topics in detail that are likely to impact dealers. Attendees listened with great interest and the session generated numerous discussions.

Following on, Huw Williams, President, Impact Public Affairs and Director, Public Affairs for CADA, discussed some of the recent developments in Ottawa, including a strategy on zero emissions vehicles and incentives for dealers, as well as the latest regarding tariffs and the U.S., Mexico, Canada (USMC) free trade initiative.

“It is very important that government understands that as dealers, we have skin in the game,” said Williams. “Dealers are the ones driving the economy and providing transportation needs across Canada.”

An outstanding motivational session came from two-time Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist Heather Moyse, who talked about her path to becoming an Olympian and the challenges she faced along the way (she began at age 27) and how, after two hip surgeries, she staged a comeback and competed once again at 39.

Breaking it down

“Regardless of what we are facing,” said Moyse, “the key to facing any challenge successfully is knowing where you want to end up and breaking it down into manageable pieces.”

In Agile Leadership: The dual challenge of preparing for the future while maximizing today—Brian Benstock, Vice President and General Manager, Paragon Honda and Acura, discussed how dealers can adapt to the changes happening around them.

With this dealership being located close to Manhattan (in Woodside, Queens, New York), Benstock referred to the fact that costs such as parking and insurance make Manhattan the district with the lowest vehicle ownership and leasing rates in the U.S. not to mention a prime target for services such as Lyft and Uber.

In other words, not exactly optimal market conditions for automotive retail. Yet by focusing on innovation and process as well as paying attention to customers’ needs Paragon Honda and Acura have seen sales volumes and market share grow by leaps and bounds.

Not less, just differently

Amid all the doom and gloom that often seems to take hold in the media regarding automotive retail, Benstock noted that for dealers it’s not a question of people consuming less in the future, just the fact they will consume differently.

He said the key to being successful is making it easy for people to do business with you—citing the creation of the dealership’s Paragon Direct 24-hour pickup and delivery service as a prime example.

Today, Paragon Honda and Acura is the # 1 certified Honda and Acura dealer in terms of volume in the world, selling more than 1100 vehicles per month.

Besides the keynote sessions, attendees were invited to take part in team building exercises, including a scavenger hunt, as well as receive details about next year’s conference from incoming TADA President Mike Eatson, which will take place in Mallorca, Spain.

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