What’s happening in automotive? A view from NADA

What’s happening in automotive? A view from NADA

Martin Forbes, CEO, Cox Automotive UK

Hi, and welcome to my first blog. These are hugely exciting times to be working within the automotive industry, and 2019 is undoubtedly going to be a massive year of change.

So, I thought I’d share my views on hot topics and events from across the automotive industry in a regular blog. Hopefully you’ll find it an interesting read, and it will inspire a bit of discussion and debate. So here goes with…

NADA 2019

NADA – this is the greatest (automotive) show!

What better place to start my first post than NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association), the world’s largest dealer focused automotive expo.

At the end of January, I was lucky enough to fly over to San Francisco to attend this year’s NADA convention.
I travelled with a group of customers, and also fellow leaders from Cox Automotive UK and international.

NADA is a great place to find out about the most exciting industry trends, products, opinion and best practice, many of which could be heading to the UK automotive market in the not so distant future.

San Francisco is also an amazing place to visit, and we were fortunate to grab some downtime with our customers to see various famous tourist sites including Alcatraz. If you ever visit I’d thoroughly recommend cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge!

Let’s paint a picture

For anyone that’s never been to NADA, let me try to paint a picture of the event.

The show gets more impressive every year, and this years’ expo floor covered a staggering 600,000 sq. ft (about nine football pitches), and over 500 exhibitors.

Walking into the show for the first time is actually a bit overwhelming, with stands and visitors as far as the eye can see. NADA attracts people from all over the world, not just for the exhibition, but also for the workshops, training sessions and panel discussions that take place each day.

There’s also a fun aspect to the event, and it’s not all about automotive – two of our customers left the show having bought a state-of-the-art massage chair each, bizarre as that may sound.

From my point of view, it was also fantastic to see all our brands come together in the Cox Automotive village, and dare I say it there are a lot of brands to get your head around. As a global business, we have a hugely-impressive presence at NADA that really demonstrates the sheer size and scale of the overall organisation.

NADA 2019

Technology & Digital – the story continues…

So what were the key themes from the show? Well I thought there was a very noticeable shift towards tech / digital products and services.

Obviously digital retailing has been a growing market for a few years, and 2019 saw exhibitors showcase everything a dealer could want or need to power a truly digital customer journey.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the AI (Artificial Intelligence) products on show. There’s some impressive new Live Chat technology that can respond to customer enquiries automatically, making 24/7 service a reality. Obviously it’s not quite as agile as a real person, but it’s certainly reached a point where it’s a realistic proposition.

Digital wholesale

The real shift though, in my view, is in the world of digital wholesale. Nobody attending NADA could be left in any doubt that the wholesale world is shifting towards digital.

By that, I don’t mean that physical auction and services are a thing of the past – far from it. What I do mean is that the blend between digital and physical services is more important now than it’s ever been before.

That’s the driving force behind our new Dealer Auction business – in partnership with Auto Trader we’ll offer the leading digital marketplace for wholesale vehicles in the UK. I can’t tell you how excited I am about Dealer Auction and what we’ll soon be able to offer customers. It’ll be transformational for all concerned.

NADA 2019


Just a final word on mobility as a service – it was a much-discussed topic at this year’s show as pilot programmes begin to generate improved customer experience scores.

The USA is certainly further advanced in this area compared to where we are in the UK, with increasing interest in ride-sharing, and subscription services already growing in some areas.

How these services will interact with the existing dealer model, and whether we’ll see integration or competition is fascinating.

I’m not sure anybody has the full picture just yet, but without doubt this is an area full of opportunity as we plan for the future, and with recent Cox Automotive investments in the US we will be leading the way.

A final thought

Finally, with all these exciting developments in technology it’s easy to forget one simple thing. Our people are the key to our success! It doesn’t matter how clever your AI Live Chat is, it may never be as powerful as the interaction you have with a well-informed, trained, real human being.

Looking after our people is core to Cox Automotive’s values, and next month’s blog will be all about the things we’re doing to promote diversity across the automotive industry.

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