Test drives beat walk-arounds

NEW ORLEANS -- A few booths at NADA are hopping. Others are nearly empty. The majority have a good number of representatives of that company speaking with a smaller number of dealers and dealership managers who have stopped by.

What makes certain exhibits stand out?

Hands-on involvement.

The exhibition floor has a large number of booths devoted to computer services, whether DMS, CRM or any of the other initials that help (or befuddle) dealers.

After walking around the floor, I decided that an exhibitor that wanted to pack in the crowds needed two chairs and a computer screen -- repeated by up to forty times.

Dealers don't want a presentation of a vendor's software products. Having one large screen with five chairs in front of it -- one for the vendor's representative who presents the product while four dealers watch passively -- doesn't cut it anymore.

Dealers want to control the keyboard themselves. A vendor representative may be explaining the product, but the dealer wants to be hands-on. What does it really look like and how does it work -- whether for the dealership or in the hands of the consumer?

Don't tell me about the product in a walk-around. Let me take it for a test drive myself.

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com

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