Just back from the National Auto Dealer's Association Conference in Las Vegas

A report from NADA2020

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February 3, 2021

Las Vegas is a trip.  Tens of thousands of auto dealers, vendors, and exhibitors from all 50 US states and dozens of countries descended on the city, and Vegas didn’t even miss a beat - in fact, it had three other major conventions going on that weekend.

Three days is about as much time as one should spend in Las Vegas at a time, and I used the daylight hours to meet people from every industry that touches buying and selling cars.  From auction services to logistics to vehicle search engines to software providers, everyone was at the National Auto Dealers Association Conference 2020.  I was looking specifically for vendors to help improve the experience of buying and selling a car as an international visitor.

The Breakout Category: Distributed Auctions

Would you buy a car from a dealership that wouldn’t take your trade-in?  Probably not.  In order to sell people cars, dealerships have to buy cars as well.  But what if you’re a Ford dealership and someone wants to trade in a Subaru?  If you have to take a vehicle that’s not in your wheelhouse as a trade-in, the easiest way to get rid of has traditionally been at an auction.  You would put that vehicle on a truck to the nearest auction, probably run by Manheim or ADESA, where it would be sold and then transported to the highest bidder.

Distributed auctions, which bring the auction to the dealer, were the breakout trend of NADA2020.  Why send the trade-in to and from an auction (who take their pound of flesh) if you can use clever technology to sell it to the Subaru dealership down the street?

Distributed auctions were, for me, the breakout category of NADA2020.  I talked to a number of exhibitors in this space (BacklotCars, CarOffer, EBlock, RumbleOn) and while they all had unique and interesting offerings, I saw a particular fit for international visitors with two of these platforms:

  • ACV Auctions.  From high definition sound recordings of the engine to a camera that will image the underside of your vehicle as you drive over it (so you don’t have to put it on a lift), ACV Auctions is focusing on the technologies that help car buyers make the best decisions.  What if, using software like this, you could understand more about a car from halfway around the world than if you kicked the tires yourself?  If you were buying a car in America as a visitor, wouldn’t that be useful?
  • The Appraisal Lane.  Upload pictures of your car and get a cash offer, good for 7 days or 300 miles.  They’ll point you to a nearby dealer who will write you a check, and the Appraisal Lane will settle everything up.  If you’re at the end of your visit, and you can’t be asked to deal with a dozen people from Craigslist, wouldn’t that be useful?

There was (way) more going on at NADA2020 besides the distributed auction companies.  I met hundreds of people at the conference, all doing amazing things that I could go on for days about.  I am looking forward to building on those relationships to further help people buy cars in America, even if they’re just visiting.

Are you planning a visit to the US in 2020?  Get in touch with visitor.us today!

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