Adventures in Halifax

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The Canadian auto dealer team recently returned from a successful CADEX conference in Halifax. CADEX is the annual conference put on by the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association (NSADA) with the goal of bringing leading national figures to the Maritimes to help local dealers better understand the forces shaping our industry.

Actually, to say it was successful is a bit of an understatement. This is the fifth CADEX event, and we’ve seen it grow every year. We may have outgrown the Compass Room, which has been the location for CADEX every year.

We had a standing room crowd for the event, which featured a number of leading industry figures speaking to some of the most important issues that dealers face. It was the biggest crowd  since the event first launched, a testament to the quality of the event (well done, John Sutherland and the NSADA team) and to dealers’ eagerness to learn and continue adapting to their rapidly changing business.

There are a couple of points of note that I’d like to share from my CADEX visit.

Firstly, thanks to Don Romano, President and CEO of Hyundai Canada, for his engaging presentation to kick off the day. Don is a very energetic and charismatic speaker, and he was in fine form at CADEX. You can read more about Don’s presentation in the editor’s note from Todd Phillips in this issue, but suffice to say that one of Don’s key points — that dealers remain (and will remain) the crucial link between customers and products, was very well received.

John White, President & CEO of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) made his first appearance at CADEX, and spoke openly about many of the changes and opportunities your national association is tackling. John has been in the role almost a year since taking over from longtime CADA leader Rick Gauthier, and it’s clear he’s putting his fingerprints on the organization and its approach to being the national champion
of dealers’ interests.

The Automotive Business School of Canada (ABSC) had a very visible presence at the event, and at the special alumni dinner the NSADA organized the night before CADEX. ABSC is a key source of talent for all sectors of Canada’s automotive industry, and it’s great to see the visibility the school receives through important industry events like CADEX.

One final thought, not directly related to CADEX. I had an interesting conversation with Alex Baum, Dealer Principal and past CADA Chairman. He is part of a new initiative that is looking to give dealers an alternative to either continuing to own their stores, or having to sell entirely. The concept is simple: let dealers retain a significant portion of their store’s equity, while giving them access to a management group that understands and has successfully implemented emerging retail and digital strategies.

For a dealer who isn’t ready to sell, but feels a bit overwhelmed by all the change coming down the pipe, this could offer an interesting middle ground. At least it struck me that way, and I love that the initiative gives entrepreneurs another option to stay in a business they love. We’ll keep an eye on this as it evolves.

That’s it for now.

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Canadian auto dealer