The Canadian auto dealer team logged countless kilometers roaming the enormous exhibit halls at the NADA Show 2024 in Las Vegas where more than 500 exhibitors competed for attention. They were showcasing their latest and greatest inside two conference halls that occupied a space equivalent in size to 12 football fields! Our team had dozens of conversations on the show floor with exhibitors and attendees. Here are some of the highlights of what vendors are offering this year and what they are talking about with dealers. To help you connect with these great industry suppliers, click their names to check out their LinkedIn profiles.
Canadian Black Book
Reynolds & Reynolds
Tim Lamb Group
Louis-Yves Cloutier, President & CEO
DRX 360 has a solution for dealers to help cut down the number of vendors they use to sell vehicles. Sometimes you see dealers use software from as many as 12. This is particularly important for dealers when it comes to protecting consumer data across multiple vendors’ databases and providing accurate information to consumers. We’ve found dealers are concerned now about full transparency as they are under more scrutiny from customers and regulators. That’s a trend that we will continue to see. That’s why your online pricing information needs to match what’s in the dealership. When it comes to the consumer experience in auto retail, we want sales consultants to put themselves in their customer’s shoes and learn to dance with the client instead of trying to control their experience. 360.Agency is the most digitally certified vendor in Canada, and we are part of almost every OEM program. We are excited that we are about to launch Showroom 360 Next Generation, which incorporates feedback from our dealers about what they need in a digital retailing tool. The enhancements are all about flexibility and even better integration to their website platform. Our websites are becoming an important transaction channel for dealers looking to engage more clients.
Carol Kilner, CEO
We have been in the vehicle inspection business for 20 years. We are headquartered in Markham, Ont. Myself and my business partner both come from a tech background, and we just love to design products to solve problems. At NADA we are showing two different products that help in their service lane. The first, BODYGUARD helps dealers capture vehicle images to help protect them from damage claims, and saves time in their documentation process. The other product, FASTLIGN, helps drive service revenues by automatically checking vehicles entering their shop to see if any alignment work might be needed. It’s a quick, “go, no go” tool to allow them to flag cars needing an alignment service. We find that about 35% of the vehicles entering the dealership need some sort of alignment service. This tech was the first of its kind, and earned multiple patents. While it’s good to develop technology, it needs to be at a price point that makes sense. When dealers hear the price point on our products, and that it can have an ROI in a few months, it’s a no-brainer for them. We are big on innovation. We have a lot of engineers and we are all Canadian.
Canadian Black Book
Yolanda Biswah, President, Yves Varin, National Director, Data Licensing
We saw a lot of Canadian dealers and vendors at NADA. The Black Book booth is so central, and it’s been great for Canadians to come see us. Everybody wants to know how the wholesale market is going to perform. They’re asking us for our forecast, and how we see values going. Is it a gradual or steep decline? But at Canadian Black Book we don’t see it as a decline — we see it as values just normalizing. It’s the market just coming back to where it has been. There seems to be a lot of optimism for the Canadian auto retail industry. One of the things that’s been good for us is that we’ve got lots of really good feedback that they see us as the only valuation company that has Canadian data. It’s been very positive to hear that. Someone commented to me today that it’s really good that you guys stick to being a valuation company. Everyone on our team is an expert in valuation and that’s what we are going to continue to focus on. We will keep expanding our values and making them as accurate as possible.
Stephan: There seem to be a lot more Canadians at NADA this year. We’ve had some really good conversations with dealers and were able to attend sessions where we got really good information that’s going to help us down the road. Bryan: We have been talking to dealers about our valuation products, our appraisal tool widget, and then the big one that everyone knows us for: our CARFAX vehicle history reports. We have been educating dealers that the reports provide more than just accident history. It has service history, and can help combat information fraud. Stephan: We’ve had a couple of instances where dealers found anomalies in their reports. They found a VIN decoded but it had no vehicle history. We went a step further and entered that VIN into an OEM recall site and found the vehicle didn’t exist. We’ve seen a sharp increase in these cases, as they are getting more sophisticated, and somehow people found out how to get VIN’s decoded.
Mayfield: Carfluent is a bilingual website product for auto dealers. Our focus is helping auto dealers connect with Spanish speakers. It’s a growing population of 60 million plus that continues to grow. Justin: Dealers want to sell a lot more cars to Spanish speakers, and we have seen a lot of bad experiences, using Google Translate or other tools to manually translate. We created a product that helps automate the process of translating the information on vehicle details pages that doesn’t add more steps to their install process. We’ve been working on this since 2021, where we actually train our language model based around specific terminology for vehicle listings. So as a dealership updates its inventory, it automatically publishes the translation too. Mayfield: Canada is on our target list. We’d like to do this for French-language websites. The main thing about it is we don’t have to recreate the dealer’s entire website, we just provide a better experience for people.
Greg: For the Canadian market, one of the big things is improving workflows on the retail side. From supporting someone shopping at home, to using that same process in the dealership. About three quarters of the dealerships we’ve talked with say it takes buyers two hours plus to buy a vehicle. Customers don’t want that, it’s too long of a process. That’s really where CDK is strong. I think the pandemic fueled the expectations for a quicker transaction. Steven: The heart of what we’re solving for is what dealers are telling us — but also what consumers are telling us. Dealers want more streamlined, unified workflows. Consumers want shortened transaction times, and to be in control of these deals at the same time. One of the big solutions that we’re rolling out, is our new modern retail desking platform. There’s not any worry for the dealer in the dealership that there’s going to be any mismatch of pricing or anything might be misaligned. This marriage of CRM with the digital retail platform, allows all that information to be carried over and can be ready for the customer when they’re sitting in the dealership. Amber: We just launched our CRM yesterday in the Canadian market, which is super exciting. The really exciting part for our tool right now is that we’re trying to connect the dots and we’ve successfully been able to connect the dots across our platforms to help fix those pain points for the dealers and for the consumers.
Alexi Venneri, Co-Founder and CEO
We’ve had our biggest year ever. We’re now in 32 countries, so it’s been fun. The best thing is our team. We just love helping consumers and our dealers. This year at NADA, we had a record number of appointments set by clients and prospects, so that’s been exciting. Years ago when we started, there were no real studies of consumers of social media behaviour. So we do our own studies. We found 59% of consumers in the survey said their dealership didn’t send them a survey or even ask them to leave a review. That’s crazy to me, because consumers are willing to do it. Would you like to let us know how it went? And how was your experience in service? What influenced you to ultimately buy where you did it? What method of communication did the dealer use or do you wish they had? Another interesting finding was that only 2.4% of survey respondents were interested in doing their vehicle purchase fully online. I always feel if you listen to consumers, and you try over time to fix the processes that aren’t working well, they will be more likely to refer others to your dealership.
Russell Wicks, Sr. Strategic Account Executive
All the car dealers and lenders are asking us how we can help them mitigate some of the defaults, things like late payments, and bankruptcies, and want to know how they can spot that in advance. We are not just the credit bureau, but there’s data that we use to find out about customers that signal their behaviour in paying off debt and things like that. Mortgage rate hikes are having a huge impact on consumers in Canada. So if you had a 2% interest rate five years ago today, that’s now going to be like 7% for your mortgage. And that could be an $800,000 mortgage, so that makes a huge difference. So in auto, what we’re finding is the lenders are very serious about that kind of behaviour. Our customers need the data from Equifax to figure out what’s happening with their customer book of business. How are those customers getting affected? They need to assess the risk, even with existing customers, not just the new buyers. Another area we are tackling is fraud. At Equifax we recognize that this is an issue. Our lenders are telling us this. Our dealers are telling us this. Because ultimately, if the dealers sell a car, they already got the money from the bank to fund the deal. But if it turns out to be fraud, the bank pushes to get their money back because it’s based on their contract. So the dealer loses twice: once because they lost the vehicle, the second is repaying the funding they got.
Pete Liebetreu, VP Marketing
Our main focus at Hunter is to make dealers profitable and successful. That goes from the front shop to the back shop. It really starts in the dealership lanes. We are showing our inspection lane technology, which is a drive-thru tread alignment inspection. You immediately get results whether those vehicles need work in that area, or if it’s good news, you get that as well. That’s a great tool for service advisors to direct the work to the appropriate techs and talk to people about the needed services. Across the vehicle park, about 60% of the vehicles need wheel alignment. That’s a huge number. If you don’t get it done, you’re wearing your tires faster. And that’s the biggest regular investment you make with your car. For tires, about 13% of vehicles need new tires and have either marginal or poor tread. The process helps the dealership establish themselves as the tire selling outlet and as tire experts. It’s been widely recognized that the first person to make that tire offer is usually the one who gets it. We are also showing our Ultimate ADAS system. If a vehicle is involved in a collision it might need a wheel alignment but it will also need to calibrate its safety systems. That includes things like lane departure, automatic cruise control and blind spot detection. If you recalibrate them, it takes a technician a lot of time to position them. Our Ultimate ADAS uses lasers to help them place the monuments for you. Essentially we aim it and pop that laser dot right in the spot where you need to put the various calibration fixtures around the vehicle at exactly the right distance.
Jason Crabb, CMO and Co-Founder
We are engaging with the dealers and getting their input and feedback and selling our new model. It’s called the MS5 Smart Lock and it’s an Internet of Things device. It’s always connected, always online. It’s the next evolution. This device helps dealerships manage access to their keys and we are very proud of this one because it uses the latest technology and is a very simple, easy to use system that’s upgradeable. We have a few different options on how you can control and access keys. There’s the touch screen. So if I wanted to use, for example, a pin or a badge, I could identify myself that way. Also, we have our app which works like a remote control. Once you plug in your code, it will show you a list of the keys that you are given access to that are available. You just select what you need to access, and we’ll log the events, and can issue notifications if needed. Dealerships like to see the key status before they go to the box, especially in a large facility. There could be different people out doing test drives, so they always know which keys are available and who has them. The nice thing about this system is that it’s designed to be consumer facing. So you can put this in the lobby of your dealership, and you can use it for after hours.
Kevin Esmezyan, Head of Marketing
Matador is a conversational AI and automation platform. We essentially facilitate communication between the dealership and their customers. We identified friction points throughout the customer journey in automotive, especially in the communication space. What we’ve done is we actually built our own large language model. So we integrate that large language model with natural language processing. And so the AI enhances our platform in many different ways through generating new content, analyzing conversations, summarizing conversation and identifying content. We’re able to essentially automate key pieces of the customer journey. So from the lead to the conversation point, we have sequential messaging and we have a bunch of tools that allow dealers to optimize conversations for appointments. Our system will communicate with the customer through a feature called Superhuman, which is essentially real conversational AI with humans in the back end. We have an entire team of people who are analyzing and either editing or accepting the different responses that it’s sending. So essentially you get the benefit of AI and the scalability of AI, but with that human touch so that every single message is on point. A large language model will always respond incorrectly, about once in every thousand responses. When you’re communicating with a customer, that’s essentially unacceptable. That’s the way we do it. So we have humans verifying every single message to make sure that when that one message out of 1,000 does come up, it’s edited, fixed, and then that message is responsive.
Paul: Serving the Canadian market is a critical part of our strategy. NCM was U.S. centric. We always had Canadian clients, but they were in a hybrid relationship scenario. They would be in the U.S. benchmarks. We are doubling down. So over the years we’ve been working harder to be more intentional about that market, and I’m thrilled to say the reception has been phenomenal. I think they appreciated the fact that we’re not trying to overlay a U.S. strategy on another market. We have hired a number of Canadians. Stacey: Our general management executive program is doing really well. We sold out our first one in Toronto. We developed the content for Canada specific to the market. The demand and response has been fantastic from OEMs and dealers. Fleming: We are excited to be able to offer a new service to a lot of our clients, which is filling the skills gap for leadership development and really building up the general manager strength. We’re bringing executive coaching and our moderators and facilitators are getting certified to be executive coaches.
Kevin Preston, Vice-President, Sales
As far as our product goes, it’s an evolution with PBS. We still lean on the core functionality where we do a lot of vendor reduction by having a single data structure. We are really good at taking the dealership enterprise, whether it’s five, six, ten, twenty or thirty stores and consolidating that into one customer database. This just simplifies the overall business, which often cuts out third party vendors. So we really promote that heavily, and every year we simply get stronger and stronger with our ability to deliver. We’ve grown to the point that there really isn’t a dealer group, or configuration we can’t handle. We are installing about 300 new systems a year now, and you hit that critical mass. We’re still nimble, but we’ve got the capacity to handle anything the market’s offering. Right now we’re running a 73% close ratio. So literally almost three quarters of everybody that looks at us — buys. One challenge is keeping people in tune with your technology as you grow. So we’ve seen a lot of value in doing traveling roadshows. This year, we’re going to do a big conference in Nashville, Tennessee, but we’ve started doing a lot more regional shows as well. People are surprised when they realize it’s a family run business. We are a family company that cares about customers. Instead of shareholder value, the most value we have is making our customer happy so that their experience with their customer is a positive one. So it’s really that easy. You know, you focus on that interaction and everybody looks good and everyone loves that.
Ross Tinkham, VP and GM Automotive
We are here to connect with existing customers. We work with about 6,000 dealers, primarily in the U.S. and Canada today. We have lots of new products, and brought new things to market as well. So we are really hoping for the opportunity here at NADA to help folks understand what the value of those new products is for dealers today. What is the value we provide to dealers? Number one, we help them drive greater operational efficiency in their dealership, and then really drive business by providing them with technology to generate new leads and convert other leads. Leads that they’re either generating through Podium or through other sources. We help dealers elevate their online presence, in particular on Google by driving Google reviews. By collecting customer feedback, we ensure they’re strongly rated online, that they optimize their local search. Then from there, when a lead lands on their website, we offer tools to connect with that lead in a very seamless way, primarily through texting or messaging. We do help them optimize other lead sources by plugging those in the Podium platform.
Steve Kisic, National Sales Manager
For the Canadian market, Connected TV is really the fastest-growing advertising segment in the world. Connected TV subscriptions have surpassed TV subscriptions in the Canadian market specifically. As of February 5th, you will have to pay $2.99 to get Amazon Prime TV channels and movies ad-free. So, if you don’t pay that $2.99, there’s going to be ads in between TV shows and movies. What does that mean for auto dealers? It means there’s more inventory, to send them your “why-buy” message on a video commercial that is completely tracked. Amazon knows that you have a BMW or a Honda Civic in your garage because you can put your vehicle into the Amazon garage. So, when I buy wiper blades and I search for them on Amazon, Amazon only shows me wiper blades that fit my Honda or my BMW. When Amazon knows that information about you, and I say, ‘hey, I’m a downtown Honda store, and I want to advertise to Honda Amazon people,’ we can actually get them in front of those who have Hondas. We know that they’re watching Jack Reacher, or whatever reality show, and we can show them an advertisement as to “why buy from downtown Honda” versus any other Honda dealership that’s in that market area. Very powerful stuff! So, instead of a spray and pray approach we serve them a retargeted demand-only video ad. So, it’s super highly targeted, highly focused.
Reynolds & Reynolds
Chris Walsh, President
AutoVision is a really big focal point for us at NADA. It’s an inventory management platform that gives dealers the ability to acquire through analytics and to merchandise and market used vehicles more efficiently. We’ve also got a lot of AI in our products. We see AI as a kind of digital assistant. So if you’ve got our CRM and it’s connected to your phone system, when a consumer calls in, we take that phone call and then we transcribe it. Using machine learning we can tag certain words. So if your customer says “ready to buy” or “buy” or maybe they are upset about a service experience at your dealership, we can tag that information and then put that in front of a sales manager or general in their daily work plan. They will see that ok, you have these customers ready to buy, and you have these customers that are upset. Phones are still a really big part of the communications with consumers, so taking that and leveraging the technology is something we are really excited about. We are also really focused on our desking tool deskit. We believe deskit needs to be part of every transaction that we do. It’s got great functionality, which is obviously why we bought it, but we’ve embedded it into our deal flow process so deeply that it’s a great workflow for a Canadian dealer. We use the word embedded, because in some cases we don’t think integration is sufficient given the speed of retail consumer expectations and dealership employee expectations. We think it needs to feel like one system, not one system that’s comprised of different products. It needs to feel like one workflow. I talked about deal flow a minute ago, but whether it’s in F&I, whether it’s in the service department, whether it’s in the front office, that all needs to feel like it’s one system, not different pieces.
Robert Dussault, Director of US Sales
It’s been very, very busy this morning. A lot of our distribution partners have already come by with their customers and we’re showcasing some of our newer products. It’s a great opportunity for us to get all of our partners together in one location. We’re based in Quebec, Canada, so having people from New Jersey, from Florida to California to Seattle, all in one location to see our products and meet with us is just a win win.
This year we have a service desk or service podium that we have for dealerships. We came up with a solution that can be customized and personalized for the dealership with the OEM branding. If you drop your vehicle off for service, your advisors can greet them and schedule their maintenance right here. It’s also on coasters so they can be wheeled out during busy times like tire changeover season. We also have new options for our parts department with shelving such as sliding panels and other products like our vertical doors that we’re launching. In the past, you would have your drawers here and all your tools would be located at a certain height. But what happens with doors and shelves, it becomes cluttered, and everything in the back is hard to access. What we did is that the best way to actually have access is for the shelves to open up vertically. Now you have 100% access to things like spray cans, or any type of cleaning fluid or tools. We have an innovation department where their job is to visit distributors, visit dealers, and actually come up with items that most of the people don’t even know they need or that are even available right now.
Anthony Goulbourne, President, RouteOne Canada
So our focus in 2024 is continuing to support dealers with their systems and providers. So we’re not dictating outcomes, we’re not dictating experiences. We’re working with our partners and whatever people that we’re trying to help fix it together. So if a dealer has a relationship with, you know, DMS provider or CRM provider, we are working on making it a connected journey. Today it’s primarily focused on that in-store experience, But what we’re seeing more and more of an investment of time and money is in a digital experience. The last area of focus for us in 2024 is the digital experience as it pertains to electronic signatures. We’re proud to say that we crossed a major milestone last year — we went from 2019 where we processed under 100 contracts that were electronically signed — and last year we went over 110,000. So it was significant growth in a very short period of time. Last year we introduced remote signing. So a dealer sitting at their store and a consumer being at home, the consumer is now able to finalize the transaction. Once the contract is electronically signed, we wait 30 days and we automatically archive it. The big push for us in 2024 is to continue to grow our signing and remote signing product suite and we’re growing it with the auto archive of the contract that you can just go self-serve if a dealer needs to retrieve it.
Michel Archambault, GM Canada
The focus for us right now is really supporting the dealers in streamlining their operations. We specialize in F&I white label products from OEM down to the dealer body. We want to make sure that the conversations we have, and the solutions we’re putting out there are really around streamlining the process for a dealer. We find dealers looking less at the silos of front office and back office and service and parts. They’re seeing the whole value proposition that what is sold upfront ends up generating revenue in the back. So we have these levels of conversations with dealers. They’re very curious about our approach as opposed to just being a product in the F&I office. We have conversations around the entire P&L of the dealership. A lot of focus is about the customer experience, and speeding things up to optimize their consumer touchpoints. We are really focusing on our platform play. We just revamped our website completely. Obviously we are continuing to do the underwriting on the risk side, and the operations of the claims from our dealer standpoint. That’s our core business.
Mike Mazgay, VP Automotive Partnerships & Dealer Operations
We reintroduced our brand in our booth at NADA this year, and you can see it’s fantastic! It’s a really nice refresh, people really love it and dealers love it. We’ve got Stella the dog back. It was a favourite icon. We’re going to put out a lot of swag and the dealers really resonate with that. In our approach to dealers, we are also going back to the basics. We are promoting the value of the entertainment experience. We spent the last ten years working with our dealers on our aftermarket service program and the radio refresh program. But now we have the new branding and we have the 360L product that is rolling out to more and more vehicles. What we’re planning this year is to be in front of our dealers and just bring back the excitement. Because our product has changed a lot in the last ten years. Our content has changed, our delivery mechanism has changed and it’s a really important part of the delivery process for a dealer to make sure that the customer understands our product and is taking full advantage of the multimedia. Their OEMs have made an investment in this technology to put it in their vehicle, and it’s a really great part of that driving experience. The multimedia is incredibly rich and we have a lot of good new options. For example, people have the ability to create their own artist station in their vehicle. There’s a lot of incredible programming available on demand. So if you want to go back and listen to all Howard Stern interviews, you can do that. There’s a lot of different discovery that they can get through our product. It’s really lean back and enjoy. Instead of curating your own content, we do it for you and we employ incredible hosts that have been in the music industry for decades. They understand the music industry better than anybody.
Erin Richmond, Chief Revenue Officer
This is our first year exhibiting at NADA. We have been in the Canadian market primarily since 2011. Right now we’re at about 50-50 Canadian to American dealers. We are down here trying to kind of grow our presence in our brand. We just launched dynamic TikTok ads for dealerships. The technology that powers our ads, will crawl their website and use that information to create a catalog for ads so that we can dynamically advertise the dealerships inventory without relying on third party feeds. We also have an attribution platform, so we pull in dealership’s DMS information or sales information and help them understand what their cost per sale is and their sales influence on each of those platforms. We help them know which of their marketing and advertising platforms are really driving those intentional and effective results and which ones are actually working. One of our big differentiators is our customer success team. So anytime a dealership signs up with us once they’re fully launched or onboarded, we will introduce them to a customer success manager. So those people have automotive experience and understand marketing so they can really access an extension of the dealerships team to help them understand what’s going on and meet with them on a monthly or more frequent basis to review the results, make recommendations, and understand what the dealership challenges and objectives are.
Tim Lamb Group
Gordie Gerbrandt, Director
In terms of Canadians or Americans looking north or south of the border for dealerships, there’s some chatter about dealers here reaching critical mass in their home states, and they maybe get into a different brand. So number one is franchising. Certain brands have reached their limit with the OEM and aren’t able to acquire any more specific brands, or they want to transition to other locations. The Lithia acquisition in Canada opened up a lot of eyes. Other dealers stateside thought maybe there’s an opportunity there. But we see the same apprehension from American dealers coming to Canada and Canadian dealers looking at the U.S. So they have the exact same apprehensions on both sides of the border. In terms of the value of dealerships, the fundamentals are strong. They’re still making money. It’s still a good business. There are two different types of buyers, one is waiting for the market to drop and for valuations to drop so they can buy dealerships at a lower number. But the others are strong and looking to grow, and the groups are getting bigger. The smaller dealers are disappearing.
Michelle: Vehlo provides software and service for the automotive aftermarket. So that means how you research where to get your car serviced, how you schedule your car for service, how you communicate with the tech when your car is in the shop, all the way through how you pay for that service. And we are in over 30,000 rooftops across the U.S. and Canada, and we really are agnostic about where that repair happens. We are in over 7,000 franchise dealerships. We saw that there were some really great best-in-class products out there, so we brought those products together through acquisition in our early days. And since then have really been focused on organic growth. To that point though, two of the businesses that we acquired were Canadian-based businesses. Euwart: Three of our brands cover the service drive workflow experience and the consumer engagement end-to-end for the service lane. The other two manage the non-customer-oriented purchase and reconditioning process. So those five products ultimately allow us to show a dealer who walks into our booth how to generate more revenue by taking care of the entire workflow from an efficiency perspective, getting cars in and out of that service lane more effectively, and how to retain their top talent, because people like to use new tools. As we know, 70% of customers who are on the warranty side keep coming to get service, but 30% of that drops off when the warranty is done. So if they don’t have great tools, they can’t keep those customers engaged.