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LA Auto Show Day 2…In A Nutshell

Oh, what's a show got on day 2 that it didn't have on day 1? Plenty….at least in the case of LA Auto Show. The day started off with the Green Car Of The Year Award…and Chevy (oops…Chevrolet?!?!) took honors with the Volt. Not a complete surprise as the buzz everywhere in LA-LA-land was electric.

Then things got down to business with two companies that are chart-topping these days: Hyundai and Audi. The Elantra looks like a winner, as well as a category stealer. The Domestics and Japanese brands will likely continue to lose market-share to Hyundai/Kia. As for VW's luxury brand, all we can say is look out for Audi. The A8 was definitely a show-stopper, the whole line-up is stelar (when is the A1 coming?). Once Americans start to understand that TDI is not clunkety diesel, they'll start to sell even more. Did someone say R8 GT?

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Infiniti was also on fire with the M Hybrid and their concept car. The M is definitely the next step in "I'm not dirving a hybridy-looking-hybrid" vogue. It's powerful, has great lines and appeals to their demographic. The brand still doesn't scream "buy me" but they seem to be on their way. As far as concept cars go….

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Misubishi seems to have finally broken their (lack of) sales mold from the past two years. Hopefully the product coming up will do the same. The three diamond brand has their electric campaign moving in the right direction so hopefully now it's all about time. But there's one bit of conflict here….in consulting we hammer dealers all day long to remove "I" from their conversations with customers Mitsubishi…there is no "I" in sales…

The rest of the day was torn betwen conversations, phone calls and photographing some of the fantastic (and mundane) future cars of Los Angeles…so there was not enough impetus to check out Chrysler. In all fairness, they had some strong buzz yesterday about the Dodge Durango. Even the 200 still couldn't get me to the booth at noon. Food was more compelling. Sorry Chrysler…maybe NADA or next year's LA Auto Show.

So here's some (subjective) eye candy for those that did make it…and even those that did:

Mazda concept…

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2011 Toyota Corolla (Should be a winner)…

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Subaru Impreza Concept…

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Mercedes CLS63 with enough technology to choke a horse(power)…

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Jaguar CX-75 concept…

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LA Auto Show Day 1…In A Nutshell

Well that was a blur….and a pain in the feet. It's always that way after sitting in the office, or the car, or client's dealerships and OEM offices. But to stand for all but 90 minutes in a day is tough. Anyway, the day was full to say the least. After breakfast (Thanks Motor Press Guild!), it was time to listen to Stefan Jacoby, Volvo's new CEO. Hmmm. Insightful but the conversation around the table with High Gear Media at breakfast was more than a bit higher on the engagement meter.

Then it was time for the Volt road trip replay, oops, the GM press conference. Aside from the obviously dirty car and great impact that their trip from Detroit to LA provided, the car part of it didn't have the normal sizzle. The Camaro convertible was nice…

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VW's booth was packed. And that's not only becase of the food spread after their conference. Lots about the EOS convertible and Heidi Klum, not enough about the Golf Blue-e-motion or next-gen Passat. Not earth-shattering, but better than GM. Could have been more "we're taking over the industry by 2017".

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Jaguar (ok, and Land Rover too), which has surprised my since changing ownership, seems to be getting their swagger back (pun intended). The concept and approved-production cars seem to be edgier and willing to take more risk than in the past 10 years. The stand didn't seem to really work for the media trying to see but it was clear that they're gaining on the buzz factor.

Mercedes may have won the "our press event can kick your press event's butt" based on the Ducati and cupcake tie in, but so did the car stuff. It was the second bland presentation of the day (both German) but the CLS63 is just simply rocking and the B Class did get a lot of nods. They'll continue to sell cars and compete for the luxury sales title with Lexus and BMW. It seems to be about little notches in the bedpost these days….

Porsche was about the Cayman R. And food. And wine. The historical video was cool and the Cayman definitely hits on way higher marks than the past version. They didn't disappoint this year and their booth (room) always seems to be just beyond pristine. So someone should tell their people to turn down the stuffed-shirt feeling and have some fun. Isn't that what Porsche is about anyway?! (that and a lot of dead presidents).

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Sorry, Nissan was accidentally missed but onto Fiat. After taking part in Mini and Smart press conferences and being around the Audi A1 marketing machine, it's not surprising to see a small car. I hope the 500 can make the brand, dealers and customers happy. I'm still reserving comment but my temperature is going to have to go up slightly…soon.

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Subaru is just killing it in sales and they don't need much in the way of redesigning their product line. So that's when it was lunch.

Ford continues to impress. Got to hear/see about a few of the buzz models and spent 15 minutes chatting with @ScottMonty. The upcoming Focus ST definitely got my attention on the spec's alone. Then there's chatter about an electric Focus. What really was fun? Slot car racing and a new simulator (they've had some over the past few years at LA Auto Show, SEMA, NADA, etc). Still bummed that I missed them when they were penny stock just a few years ago…

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Honda seems to be going steadily, but slowly, down the path of alternatives. You can count on that. Honda's Fit EV keeps the drum beating but their gas cars are so efficient, where is everything going? The cars still need more life (but the last two seem to at least be designed by someone with a pulse) but their engineering is so sound, you just have to listen for 40 minutes. (Actually I started a conversation with Brian Glickman from Edmunds so my story should be changed!). No oohs or aaahs but some nodding heads at the close.

Skipped Dodge and Lotus for compelling conversations and walking around before the early departure this afternoon.

A few things are clear:

  • Budgets are coming back, spurred by sales and profits. The booths are bigger again, there's espresso machines and music blaring, heck all companies had their lights on the whole time! The buzz is back and it feels good. As one of my friends said today, even the carpet padding is a couple grades up from the last couple years and that's a great sign!
  • Giveaways are cool, but if it's less than two inches by two inches or you wouldn't want/keep it yourself, send it back to the ad agency or widget maker.And make sure everyone there gets your media kits…you never know how many of the non-media people acutally do stuff for lots of dealerships!
  • IMPORTANT: Now get the excitement from the show flloor to the dealers, back it up with better education than they've been receiving and we'll really have something to celebrate. Retail sells cars. Not the OEMs.

That's my story and I'm…sticking to it! Maybe another round tomorrow. Press conferences are Hyundai, Audi, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Wheego, Morgan and Perana.

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

IMACS To Speak At Upcoming Digital Marketing Strategies Conference In Napa

IM@CS is pleased to announce that President Gary May has been invited to speak at the upcoming PCG 2011 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference in Napa, CA just prior to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) conference in San Francisco. As things continnue to shift online for the automotive industry, the time dealers have to reassess their activity, brand and resutls online is extremely limited.

Like the PCG event prior to NADA 2010 in Orlando, progressive dealers are expected to get answers to their questions, sound strategies to move forward, relevant data to build from and more. Attendees will take part in three different workshops per day, bookended by breakfast and "Wine Tasting Optimization (WTO)" receptions prior to local Napa dinner engagements that are expected to be the talk of NADA.

Gay May will be joined by Christine Rochelle, Alex Snyder, Matt Murray and Glenn Pasch with keynotes by Brian Pasch, Jared Hamilton and other special guest speakers. Speaker bios and session times can be found at http://www.digitalmarketingstrategies.org/digital-marketing-strategies/agenda/ as well as registration and lodging information.

As the market continues to favor businesses that are focusing online, engaging consumers, responding to input and reviews and retaining their customers properly via the web and other tools, the sessions on February 2-3 will provide the latest in some of the ways to address today’s automotive retail environment.

Heading to San Francisco for NADA and willing to add on a few days that can more your business? Join us!

DrivingSales Executive Summit…In A Nutshell

 DrivingSales Executive Summit V2.0 hit Encore (Wynn) in Las Vegas last Monday through Wednesday. A few things: attendance doubled last year’s, the start was absolutely electric and the event finished on such a high it left many attendees literally longing for more and feeling like they needed another day. The DSES crew flat out delivered.

Upon walking into the main Encore conference room at 4:00p, it was packed. Charlie Vogelheim emceed once again with his typical style. Jared Hamilton, founder of DrivingSales.com, did a more-than-typically -fast-paced tirade on where the industry is from both his and an opportunity perspective. It was mesmerizing and for more reasons than the picture of the donkey suspended in mid-air. The foundation was set.

Brian Benstock and Sean Wolfington talked about what Paragon Honda and Tier 10 did together to achieve massive results from integrated marketing. Not “let’s do this offline and see if it works on the web” so-called integration but a rarely-executed integration. The cost would strike most dealers, especially Honda dealers, as a shock today but it was a massive undertaking, shaved Paragon’s costs in what would rank as the “wow that’s great” territory and put them solidly on the map as #1. It was impressive.

Then it was time for Scott Monty of Ford (http://www.twitter.com/ScottMonty). As I’ve had the benefit of seeing a good part of the opening of his presentation before, it was crowd watching time. Simply put, Scott had the room wrapped around his finger. It’s amazing to hear about just part of what he, backed by a rare CEO in Alan Mulally, and the social media and marketing teams do at Ford. Day one’s reception at Piero’s was fantastic, the buzz consistent well into the evening.

Day two kicked off with great anticipation and didn’t disappoint. Jeremiah Owyang (http://www.web-strategist.com/blog) piqued the interest of many in the room with volumes of data as well as practical application. Brian Pasch and Erich Miltsch both hit their separate sessions, SEO and location-based services, with great engagement. Eric unveiled his CarZar application (http://www.thecarzar.com) which was definitely the talk over the rest of the conference. Grant Cardone followed with one of his rousing, impassioned pleased from stage about businesses maintaining an “eat or be eaten” mentality.

Three sessions of breakouts, then lunch, and three more rounds covered the rest of day two’s learning. The Facebook session (Albrecht AG and Lebanon FLM) was insightful but seemed to lack engagement with the audience and didn’t answer the “tough questions”. Rafi Hamid’s Enterprise Management presentation may have been a little much for some of the attendees. Fact is all could have, somewhat to completely, restructured their dealerships just from his insight.

Then it was time for the Dealer and Vendor Innovation Cup. What a great way for dealers to participate in what may change the industry next! These are some of the most innovative folks around, not hampered by other company’s offerings or what vendors don’t provide. Some of the substance was leading edge, others more common place. But the desire to execute, and what it took to continue to push the envelope, that was the compelling “meat and potatoes”. eCarList (http://www.ecarlist.com) and Marc McGurren from Jerry Durant Toyota won. Congratulations.

The one thing that continues to strike me after attending eight years of automotive conferences is this: why do we not connect the dots at the event rather than making the attendees do so themselves after the events. DrivingSales Executive Summit would have been the right place to have a Q&A session that allowed those that wanted the extra insight to get going when they returned to their dealerships later in the week. Note to promoters: breakouts, lunch sessions and other quick after-session times plus post-event webinars and curriculum are perfect for that and the speakers should be required to do their part.

Tuesday closed with another packed reception but I’d say the buzz was higher. Yes, there was even a Ralph Paglia sighting! Lots of connecting, introductions and big conversations (small chat was non-existent). It was fun to have a number of Canadians in the room as things change north of the border. The industry there is also changing rapidly and not having felt as steep of an economic decline as the US did, many retailers there are waking up to incredible opportunities for their dealerships. After hours, Sean Wolfington and Brian Pasch greeted some forty plus to their own reception which went on for another four hours plus.

Wednesday saw Dan Zarrella (http://danzarrella.com) put many on their ears and some looking inquisitively with a wide-ranging but hard-hitting session of insight all relevant to search, social, engagement, measurement and more. The accountability and opportunities dealers can create just from his time on stage would be more than a year of gains. Joel Ristuccia of Babson College brought incredible amounts of insight to the subject of change management in the industry, Dale Pollak did one of always rousing, but very up-to-date, admonitions about how dealers must change now and Jared Hamilton closed the event with John Holt of Cobalt Group on stage. Admittedly I missed that session while in the adjoining hall on phone calls and no tweets.

In closing, with definite room to grow and improve (and some more microphones around the audience for the Q&A session after each keynote), DrivingSales Exeuctive Summit was spot on in only its second generation. There was enough positive feedback to likely venture a guess as to how much the third edition would grow. And maybe room for…….

Congratulations to Jared and the entire DSES team for an impressive event!

Digital Dealer 9…In A Nutshell

So we're in what many call the automotive industry's event olympics, digital dunking chair, online opinion onslaught, guruexpertvendorspeakerconsultantpitchyouintosubmissionsession and more (is that a word or an insult?!?!). Anyway, last week's Digital Dealer was one heck of a kickoff with around 750 dealers in attendance.

Over the three days, we heard both the good and bad, awesome and ugly and got to share time with the companies in what was easily the largest expo at any of the series of Digital Dealer events. With an opening panel that seemed to be more about defending third party lead providers and attacking other ways to drive traffic, it may have put an interesting asterisk on the event: One of the calls-to-action that is consistent of Digital Dealer conferences (as well as growing) is the ability for dealers to create more eyeballs, consideration, conversion and sales themselves without paying large sums to the marketing companies.

The rest of day one seemed to bring an overwhelming good vibe with some frustration but nothing more than past Digital Dealers. The evening was filled with various receptions, dinners, parties and (required?) gambling. Walking around The Mirage, you could see a kalaiedascope of dealers, OEMs, vendors, consultants and service providers roaming, playing and chatting. Ralph Paglia's ADM reception was well attended again (Ralph, two words for you and ADP: larger suite. Two more: air conditioning). The first day can be marked as a success.

Day two flew out of the gates and we had hop between meetings and sessions. Overall strong buzz, especially around lunch. However there seemed to be more dissention in the ranks when it came to enjoying the speakers. Obvious or not, blatent or passive, it's hard to control speakers. One session we heard about from a lot of people seemed to end up being an over-the-top pitch along with aggressive words toward competition. There's no place for that. The popular speakers seemed to reign more supreme at DD9 which represented a good amount of feedback. One that stood out for us was Kevin Frye's. He had a classy presentation and style that seems to be more prevelant in dealer sessions. Add the trust from the crowd and it's a recipe for success.

IM@CS hosted our second #imacswebpoker tournament and ended up hosting 22 players. We'd like to thank AutoData, AutoFusion, Cargigi, GetAutoAppraise and PCG Digital Marketing for their involvement. AutoFusion presented with Reno Toyota with a complete complimentary package of website, mobile site and Facebook inventory app. Thanks to the other dealers in attendance and congratulations to Dennis Colome of AutoByTel for taking the top prize and trophy. The evening was long but distinguished.

Day three is always a short one and we attended a session and a half. Didn't get a chance to talk with a lot of dealers as they went to the peer session as we headed to the airport. The morning started off with what appeared to be a full breakfast and expo which is a great sign, considering some left Wednesday night. Jumping between sessions from Brian Pasch and Ralph Paglia, both were packed in an apparent tip-of-the-hat to their reputations for delivering the right data and engagement. Dealers tackled their last-minute vendor meetings and some started making plans for next April's Digital Dealer 10 in Orlando.

Overall, Digital Dealer 9 was a success for the majority of dealers and others in attendance. In our opinion, Mike Roscoe and his staff still have items to address to make it an ongoing success, some they commit they're already working toward but still have to focus harder on.

Next week there's DrivingSales Executive Summit and JD Power Internet Roundtable so we'll report from Las Vegas again…

Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver Next Stop For IM@CS

Tim Jackson and the Colorado Automotive Dealer Association invited IM@CS out to Denver, CO September 8 to participate in the Innovative Dealer Summit (http://www.innovativedealersummit.com). The event and it's four-track format was set to bring CO dealers to the forefront of the digital shift in automotive retail. After attending Digital Dealer 8 in Orlando last April and seeing no more than eight store staff in attendance (no principals or senior management), Tim believed that the dealers in the mountain state needed all of the information possible.

With some of the industry's headliners in attendance, the event kicked off with a fantastic breakfast, emceed by GM's Mike Marshall. Jared Hamilton, www.Drivingsales.com, Jonathan Ord, DealerSocket, and Dale Pollak, vAuto, energized the crowd with the up-to-date challenges and opportunities faced by dealers.

IM@CS's own Gary May kicked off the general sessions with the topic "Putting It Together: Dealership, Brand, eCommerce" to a packed room. One of the dealer body's greatest challenges today is the shift from the franchise brand (or badge on the car) to the dealership brand (community involvement, reputation management, destination mentality and more).

The day promises to be an eye-opening experience for those in attendance, a 12-hour non-stop collection of topics and tools to move the automotive retail industry forward.

Thanks to Tim Jackson and the CADA!

IM@CS on Social Media Club LA Panel: Social Media Affecting the Automotive Industry

It was a pleasure to participate with other industry colleagues on a panel at Social Media Club LA’s event last Tuesday evening: How Social Media Is Affecting the Automotive Industry. Chris Heuer kicked off the evening as only the head of the global Social Media Clubs could. Serena Ehrlich moderated the panel and fielded the live and web-based questions. Thanks to TechZulu and Efren Toscano for covering the event live and to Dave Barthmuss and the GM team for providing some great pizza!



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