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Some people conspicuous by their NADA absence

Thousands of auto dealers and vendors look forward to gathering at the NADA convention every year. For a lot of conventioneers, this year is notable for who's missing.

Some Toyota dealers have stayed home to deal with their very public safety recall controversy. Dealers and others from the Washington D.C. area were waylaid by the blizzard there.

NADA itself had to charter a bus out of suburban D.C. to get staffers through the snow into Orlando for the once-a-year event. A separate but related convention of automotive lenders here across town had to scramble Thursday to make last-minute replacements for snowbound speakers on its roster.

Some dealers have skipped the event simply to hold down travel expenses after a year of reduced revenues.

And on top of all that, the industry is just a smaller beast in 2010 than it was a year ago. There will be no Pontiac brand activity this year. Saturn is gone. Saab no longer hosts a make meeting. Top General Motors brass have pared back their appearances at the convention. And absent GM's brass, the GM Minority Dealers Association has opted out of the convention.

This convention traditionally was the moment every year when you caught up with old friends from across the country and asked how they did for the year. In 2010, a lot of people will have to find all that out by phone.

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