Mardi Gras comes early for NADA convention goers

By Mike Geylin
Special to MotorwayAmerica

(January 29, 2017) NEW ORLEANS – Mardi Gras came early for the more than 23,000 attending the annual National Automobile Dealers Association Convention here Jan. 26-29 as they celebrated both the organization’s 100th Anniversary, as well as the biggest year in U.S. new-car sales.

More than 5,000 attendees partied to the beat of several regional bands, dined on a plethora of regional foods including jambalaya, etouffee, muffuletta and po’ boy sandwiches during a birthday bash at Mardi Gras World – where the floats are produced and stored. Fireworks lighting up the Mississippi River and a greatest-hits concert by Foreigner, the Boston band which celebrates its 40th year in 2017, capped off the festivities.

The mood throughout the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, as well as the numerous hotels housing the representatives from the trade organization’s more than 16,500 new-car-franchised dealers and other participants, and the restaurants and clubs of this raucous city, was positive as several consecutive years of a strong auto market reached a record of 17.5 million new-car sales in 2016.

Mark Fields, Ford’s chief-executive officer, predicted further good things for this year and the near term, based on his meetings with President Donald J. Trump.

“It was an honor to meet with the president,” he said following his keynote address Thursday to the convention. “In his first meeting, he was focusing on manufacturing, focusing on jobs which was a strong signal every manufacturer loves. “I think he is going to be good for our industry. I think he’s going to be good for the economy.”

More than 600 diverse exhibitors filled some 700,000 square feet of convention floor — the center is some 1.25 miles of river-front end-to-end — to display everything from fully automated — and operating — car-wash modules to management systems to mobile-key-cutting-equipped vans to tire-repair equipment to even small, private aircraft — for the dealer who has everything.

One exhibitor, Irvine-based AutoGravity ( demonstrated its iOS and Android smartphone car-financing/car-shopping app which allows a consumer to pick the car they want to buy or lease (new or used); choose the dealer from which they want to make the purchase and apply for — and receive — the financing for the deal before they even walk into the showroom. The shopper will receive up to four offers and can choose the one which is best for him or her.

 “We are supplying the digital glue between the dealer, who we think does a great job selling cars; the lender, who we think knows its business, and the consumer, for whom we provide transparency for the entire process,” explained Andy Hinrichs, AutoGravity CEO. “The AutoGravity app was designed to address the shopping habits and demands of modern consumers, particularly millennials.”