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OEM & Dealer Partnerships Still Matter - NADA 2020 Highlight

As the curtain came down on NADA 2020 in Las Vegas, it is time to reflect on some of the events key highlights.

We left with strong messages from the incoming NADA 2020 Chairman Rhett Ricart, President and CEO of Ricart Automotive Group, where he reinforced that NADA is there to build and protect your business. Ricart continued “the beauty of our business is we thrive on disruption. When you think about it, dealers make their living by confronting, understanding and ultimately harnessing disruption; for over 100 years we have been turning disruption into dollars!”

As always, the show was a great opportunity to network, making new connections and catching up with old ones. There was a diverse range of speakers, including the Rt Hon David Cameron as a keynote speaker. However, for me, some of the key takeaways often come from the industry presentations. Listening to the many talented and inspirational people at the event is always a key part of NADA. This year it was the Chair and CEO of General Motors who provided my industry speaker highlight.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra

NADA is a highly effective dealer-focused organization with a strong track record of advocating for and supporting dealers. Crucially, the organisation fights for and lobbies for dealers, taking on legislators when they feel necessary.

This year Mary Barra, the powerful and highly influential CEO of General Motors took to the stage and provided a fascinating insight into her career and her vision for the future. While recognizing that change can only accelerate; her commitment to the GM dealer base and their evolving role in meeting the needs of customers could not have been more transparent.

Experience Adds to Barra’s Credibility

Barra has worked at GM for 40 years and her first role was on the assembly line; the broad insight she has gained on the whole production and distribution process is demonstrable through her passion for GM and the industry as a whole, means she earns credibility rapidly.

Looking Forward – the Partnership Model

Having been in her role for six years, Barra recalled that on taking the role of CEO she forecasted that the next five years would see more change in the industry than in the previous fifty. Now, she sees this change accelerating even faster.

At the heart of the GM strategy is a values-led ethos and a vision:

“Zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion with the needs of the customer uppermost”

In what she sees as “one of the most exciting times for our industry,” Barra is passionate about the role of dealers. With other markets seeing a consolidation of dealers, she pointed to the importance of partnership between GM and its dealers. For her, this partnership is of vital importance because it is dealers who have the relationship with the customer. Dealers as she observed, are a strategic asset. When questioned about the role of smaller rural dealers (34% of NADA dealers sell under 300 new cars p.a.), she was equally committed to their future.

Having committed to a dealer model, Barra pointed out that change is necessary. The move from petrol to electric will change every part of the manufacturing, distribution and servicing model. At the same time, the needs and expectations of customers have changed. Clinging to the past, she pointed out, is not an option for anyone.

It was a fascinating session from someone with real passion. As well as the importance of dealer partnerships and embracing change messages, I took a few other key points from her session:

  • There is a role for creative tension in a business, it helps to keep people on their toes and avoid complacency;
  • Culture is important, but it is not something you can change, at least not overnight,  but you can change how you behave everyday – values matter;
  • To create a more diverse environment; it is essential that everyone is welcomed, valued and treated fairly;
  • Hard work matters.

By Natalie Sweet at 5 Mar 2020, 14:00 PM


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