The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) conference in New Orleans kicks off today with J.D. Power and Associates' 2014 International Automotive Roundtable. The conference brings in heavy hitters from across the business, starting with Finbarr O'Neill, president of J.D. Power and former chief of Hyundai Motor's American operations. If anyone knows the dealer business it's O'Neill. After his stint at Hyundai, where he introduced the 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, he took a leadership position at dealership vendor Reynolds & Reynolds.
Ludwig Willisch, president-CEO of BMW North America will also speak, almost certainly about BMWi, the company's urban sustainability auto program. He will talk, in fact, almost exclusively about sustainability, which says a lot about where the industry as a whole is going. Executives who participated in “press day” at the the Washington Auto Show dealt pretty much entirely with their companies' alternative powertrain programs.Willisch is also going to talk about “Future Retail,” which is a program the company is rolling out worldwide. It's a huge, huge program. Why? BMW has slipped in retail performance. BMW in the U.S. is also trying to create a better communications channel with dealers. There are advanced training programs, design elements, a focus on electric and alternative power train. the goal: help dealer and customer get most out of new vehicles. On deck: $2.5 billion investment by dealers over next five years. More on this later.