Reflections on NADA

New inventory management tools worth a look

This was a particularly hectic year at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention and it was not only because it was Super Bowl Weekend in Las Vegas, though I am sure that had an impact. Attendance was up 22 per cent over last year, for a total of 22,000 people milling the convention centre floors. Through a very informal survey based on my cab rides around town, I can also report that the taxi drivers in Las Vegas seem to be fans of this particular convention, with a few of them noting how busy everything is with this particular group in town.

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to spend time with a number of Canadians who made the trip. There were some very good discussions and there is a lot of optimism about the state of the Canadian auto industry.

It is typical for many of us to return from NADA each year with lots of great insight into the evolution of technology in our business. A highlight for me was spending time walking the convention hall floor and seeing what offerings exist to help automotive dealers grow their businesses or manage them more effectively. I tend to spend a lot of my time watching the inventory management space, trying to understand how the service providers in this area are meeting the changing needs of dealers looking to more effectively manage their sourcing, stocking and merchandising efforts. Indeed, there are many great tools out there and it must be pretty challenging for dealers to figure out exactly what they want and need.

One message that was heard loud-and-clear this year is that dealers are really pushing the envelope on the merchandising side and demanding very robust tools to support a relatively simple goal: Advertise cars in as many places as possible, as effectively as possible. Yes, that is a very simplistic view of the world. However, it is clear that 
three of the large inventory management tool providers have heard the message and are all focused on introducing functionality to their platforms that will allow their customers to enhance the entire merchandising lifecycle.

DealerTrack, vAuto and FirstLook have all modified their core offerings to create a tighter integration between the stock and the market, and are using a lot of market data and analytics to help the dealer determine the best course of action with their inventory. There is a definite move to bring more online listing price data into the decisioning aspects of the vehicle marketing equation, letting the dealer know exactly what the marketplace looks like and where their inventory could and should be positioned relative to others. From there, tool sets are available that help the dealer create the actual advertisement. It has become easier to manage the way the vehicle is being published and seen online.

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Canadian auto dealer