The National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) recently hosted its highly anticipated 8th annual conference, #NADA Connect 2024, bringing together senior dealership personnel from both dealer groups and independents, and other industry stakeholders. With a record-breaking attendance of over 200 delegates, this conference proved to be a pinnacle event in the retail automotive industry calendar.

Under the umbrella of the NADA Dealer Performance Programme, which includes regional roadshows, webinars, and the prestigious MSXi NADA Dealership of the Year Awards, the conference boasted a comprehensive agenda. Central to the programme’s success were the invaluable contributions of sponsors like Cars.co.za, Dimension Data, Lightstone, MSX International, NADA, and WesBank.

Brandon Cohen, Chairperson of NADA, opened the day’s events and welcomed the attendees. “Each speaker was meticulously chosen to bring something to the proverbial table that could be practically implemented by those in attendance,” said Cohen, adding, “In a rapidly evolving industry, it’s essential to embrace change and seize opportunities for growth.” He emphasised that “The success of our industry lies in our ability to adapt, innovate, and continuously strive for excellence.”

Guiding the proceedings as Programme Director and Master of Ceremonies was David Furlonger, a renowned industry expert and Editor-at-large for the Financial Mail and Business Day. His expertise ensured seamless execution and enriched the conference experience for all attendees.

At the heart of the conference were the distinguished speakers who delivered compelling insights into the automotive landscape. Keynote speaker Manny de Canha, Chairman of C2 Technologies Group and an industry icon, shared his wealth of experience and emphasised the importance of adaptability in navigating uncertain times. With a focus on practical strategies, de Canha outlined common pitfalls and underscored the significance of understanding local market dynamics.

Joining the discourse was international speaker Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu Motors Group in the UK, who highlighted the pivotal role of organisational values in fostering customer trust and delivering exceptional dealership experiences. His case studies exemplified the success of Vertu Motors’ omni-channel approach in building a robust dealership network.

Johann Theart, General Manager of Marketing Planning at Toyota, provided crucial insights into the evolving landscape of new-energy vehicles, urging dealerships to align with global trends and governmental policies. His presentation underscored the importance of proactive preparation for the inevitable shift towards BEVs and alternative fuel vehicles.

Addressing the pressing issue of cybersecurity, Pieter Potgieter, Information Security and Compliance Officer at Britehouse Automotive, shed light on the growing threat posed by organised crime to dealership security. His recommendations emphasised proactive measures to safeguard dealership integrity and customer data against potential breaches.

Dr Christian Richter from Google rounded off the conference with a futuristic outlook on artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications for automotive retail. Through a captivating presentation, Dr Richter elucidated the role of AI in enhancing the car buyer’s journey, offering actionable insights for dealerships to leverage data effectively.

In essence, #NADA Connect 2024 epitomised excellence in automotive discourse, offering a platform for industry leaders to exchange ideas, anticipate trends, and drive innovation. As delegates departed with newfound knowledge and inspiration, the conference reaffirmed NADA’s commitment to advancing the automotive sector’s collective vision for the future.