CADEX 2016 tackled big issues

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cadex_640xIt was a packed house at the fifth annual CADEX East Management Conference, as Nova Scotia dealers convened at the Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax on April 15th to discuss the issues of the day.

The annual half-day conference, organized by the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association (NSADA), is then followed by a President’s dinner to celebrate the auto industry.

Despite a delayed flight due to the inclement weather in Halifax, Stephen Carlisle, President and Managing Director for GM Canada, was able to deliver his much-anticipated keynote address to kick off the day.

“There’s never been more disruption in the auto industry. We’re in an era of massive opportunity,” said Carlisle to the room packed with dealers.

Carlisle talked about the different ways GM is exploring mobility and the ownership model globally, as seen through its recent partnerships with Lyft and its new car-sharing service, Maven, for urban dwellers.

His presentation also explored electric vehicles and the move to reduce emissions, as well as the migration from the connected car to autonomous vehicles. Carlisle cited recent research that found autonomous vehicles will be a $87-billion industry by 2030.

Though Carlisle believes the conventional car ownership model is here to stay for a while, dealers can also capitalize on the ride sharing economy.

For example, Carlisle pointed out that shared vehicles will still need to be managed as a fleet and serviced. “We need to not just think of selling vehicles, but kilometres driven as well,” he added.

“I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in the auto industry,” Carlisle concluded.

Michael Hatch, Chief Economist for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), presented his overview of the national economy and his outlook for Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia should continue to see modest growth for the rest of 2016, though Hatch said the province’s share of national sales is fairly flat. Sales hit a new record for the province but they rose only 1.7 per cent from last year.

With respect to vehicle choices, the province continues to have a strong appetite for trucks and SUVs, mimicking the rest of the country. The used car market is also fairly strong in the province, said Hatch.

He also brought up some of the demographic challenges the province is facing, joking there are “not enough newlyweds and too many nearly deads.”

The province is also struggling to attract immigrants and bring young talent into the dealerships, even though employees on average are making around $959 a week.

But overall, Hatch said Nova Scotia is doing better than some of its neighbours.

A panel session on dealership information technology looked into lead generation and other digital technologies that shape automotive retail.

The discussion was moderated by Niel Hiscox, Publisher of Canadian auto dealer, who probed panelists Alan Bird, Chief Executive Leader for SCI MarketView and Dave Bates, VP of customer support for Reynolds & Reynolds, on topics related to mystery shopping, transparency and the role of mobile phones in the store.

Dealers also heard a panel discussion with Robert Karwel, Senior Manager of Automotive Practice in Canada for J.D. Power and Dave Arnold from CARPROOF, on how consumers feel about the dealership selling process.

Karwel said that 70 per cent of consumers surveyed last year are dissatisfied with the sales process because they don’t see why there are multiple people involved in the deal.

The other big issue he pointed out was that dealers are not spending enough time in the delivery phase to educate customers about the features in their vehicles.

Arnold found similar statistics as part of CARPROOF’s Transparency Advantage initiative, an industry-led think tank committed to innovation in automotive. “A little education goes a long way,” said Arnold.

Hiscox then sat down on stage with Rick Gauthier, President & CEO of CADA, for an informal fireside chat.

Gauthier announced last November that he would be stepping down from the association, and much of the chat surrounded around the issues his successor will be facing, like the next Bank Act review.

They also spoke about dealer consolidation and the issue of the need for dealers to form a succession plan. Gauthier said that even consolidators will need to figure out their exit strategy once the buying frenzy settles down.

“Dealers are like cats. They always land on their feet. They always figure out how to prosper,” said Gauthier.

When asked what Gauthier is most proud of during his tenure with the association, his response was “the CADA team.”

The conference wrapped up with an announcement from Hanif Dharamsi from TD Auto Finance, which has committed to three more years as CADEX presenting sponsor.

Look for more event coverage in the May issue of Canadian auto dealer.


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